Issues of the past

THE business community, private and public sectors play a vital role in economic development and growth. Over many decades, this sector has experienced many challenges. From disagreements, poor financial performances and economic uncertainty to positive investments and growing confidence — all leading up to Fiji’s improved economic growth rate of 4.2 per cent last year from negative 1.4 per cent in 2009. This year, the economy has been earmarked to maintain the 4 per cent growth trend. Business Editor GERALDINE PANAPASA explores some of the prominent issues and investments in 1985, 1995 and 2005 facing the business community.

August, 1985

* $36m loss

On the front page of The Fiji Times on August 3, 1985, an article titled “Air Pacific runs $36m loss” highlighted accumulated losses by the airline of more than $36million for the financial year April 1984 to March 1985.

According to the article, the airline had an operating loss of $10m after tax and was presented in the House of Representatives by then Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara in reply to questions from then shadow minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Temo Sukanaivalu.

For the first three months of the year since the takeover by Qantas in January 1985, the airline reported an operating loss of $560,000.

For the two months April and May, it had an estimated loss of $600,000 despite a forecast of $1m profit for the second six months of the year from June to December.

The article said the airline’s performance that year had been affected by the cyclones in January and February. It said the airline estimated loss of revenue from the impact of the cyclone to be about $4m.

* Co-op shutdown

The same newspaper edition carried an article that highlighted discussions to liquidate the biggest co-operative association in Fiji — the Cakaudrove Co-operative Association.

At the time, the association had more than 200 co-operative societies on Vanua Levu and Taveuni as members. All operations of the association had closed amid demands from creditors for payments of accounts.

The article said the association’s board of directors had been in Suva to discuss the future of the co-operative with officials of the Fiji Co-operative Association and the Ministry of Co-operatives.

The Cakaudrove Co-operative Association had retail and wholesale businesses and headquarters in Savusavu. According to the article, the association also operated a supermarket and was involved in the buying of copra and yaqona.

Follow up articles revealed the Cakaudrove Co-operative Association had gone into voluntary liquidation. One of the major creditors, Ashabhai and Company, had issued a summons against the association for $9000 but its execution was withheld pending further discussions.

* No to cruise bid

Another issue in the same edition focused on seven chiefs on Rotuma opposing moves for the tourist liner Fair Star to call on the island on a tourist cruise. According to the article titled “No to cruise bid”, the chiefs voiced their opposition at an Alliance Party Constituency Council meeting on the island that was organised by the secretary of the Cakaudrove, Lau, Rotuma Constituency Council Committee, Leo Smith.

A spokesman for the islanders said they had seen the effect of tourism in other parts of the world and did not like what they saw.

While tourism would improve the economy of the island, the spokesman said, they did not want to sacrifice their tradition and culture “for a few tourist dollars”.

August, 1995

* New aircraft bolsters service

On August 7, 1995, then Air Fiji had invested in a 15-seater Embrader-Bandeirante aircraft as it launched a new range of services to provide 23,000 seats every month on its domestic route.

According to the article in The Fiji Times, the schedule would increase during peak times to help cope with passenger demands.

* Tax free zones

In the same publication under the headline “Plans for tax free zones”, Government was considering the establishment of tax free zones in rural areas in a bid to counter the increasing unemployment problem.

Then Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade deputy secretary Josaia Maivusaroko said the tax free zone would be an extension to the proposed zones in Kalabu near Suva.

According to the article, major companies had already made commitments while others had expressed interest in establishing factories within the zone.

Some rural areas that were earmarked at the time for the tax free zones included Ba, Navua, Rakiraki, Korovou, Wainibokasi, Labasa, Savusavu and Vunisea on Kadavu.

* New resort development

On August 7, 1995, The Fiji Times reported plans to open a new resort at Vuda Point. At the time, plans were revealed that the resort with an environmental flavour would open around October to cater for the quieter tourists, yachties and locals.

The article said the resort would be called First Landing — in recognition of the area’s first human habitation and the arrival point for most overseas visitors.

It said the resort was targeting long-term visitors, who were working in Fiji for a few months or having their boats overhauled at the Vuda Point marina next door.

* Sugar strike halts mills

Crushing at the four sugar mills came to a halt in August 1995 after 2000 members of the Fiji Sugar General Workers Union walked off their jobs.

According to an article published by The Fiji Times on August 10, 1995, the strike came as conciliation talks on a pay rise between the Fiji Sugar Corporation and the union were held in the Capital City.

The article said the strike left several thousand tonnes of fresh and burnt harvested cane in the fields.

August 2005

On August 6, 2005, the nurses’ strike was a prominent issue, and featured on the front page of The Fiji Times on that day.

The article titled “No deal yet” reported the Public Service Commission making a counter offer to the nurses on strike in a bid to get them to return to work.

The nurses’ strike had dramatically slowed medical services around the country. The nurses went on strike after talks over pay and work conditions with the Ministry of Health broke down.

According to the article, then commission chairman Stuart Huggett apologised to the nurses for the confusion surrounding the deduction of payments from their salaries, adding the breakdown of talks between the ministry and the Fiji Nurses Association was because of human error.

He also blamed the commission for the overpayment of nurses’ salaries, which it was trying to correct by making deductions.

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