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Fiji to put in place practical mechanisms to combat drug abuse

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The South Pacific island nation of Fiji is putting in place practical mechanisms by introducing strategies and policies to combat drug abuse.

According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), Fiji’s Minister for Defence and National Security Inia Seruiratu said on Tuesday that his ministry is in the process of putting in place practical mechanisms by introducing strategies and policies to effectively curb and provide medical remedies for addicts.

Drug abuse is becoming a worldwide public health issue specifically for methamphetamine which has found its way into the Pacific island nations, including Fiji, he said, adding that statistics show an increase in the usage of methamphetamine in Fiji from two cases in 2013 to 113 cases in 2018.

While pointing out that many Pacific island nations lack territorial integrity let alone drug functional structures to adequately monitor their drug situation, the minister said that the trend has challenged the law and enforcement agencies in the early detection of lucrative drugs.

In Fiji, the most commonly abused substances are marijuana, methamphetamine, cigarettes, kava and alcohol. Last year, the Fijian police seized drugs worth over 94 million United States dollars in the island nation.

To step up its raids on drug abuse, the Fijian police are now using body cameras and drones to track people farming and selling drugs like marijuana on the island nation.

(XINHUA)

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Fijian economy expected to contract severely in 2020 mainly due to poor tourism activity

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Fiji‘s economy is expected to contract severely this year due to the significant decline in tourism activity and its knock-on effects to the rest of the economy.

A statement from the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF), the nation’s central bank, said on Tuesday that sectoral performances to date remained weak as electricity, cement, gold and timber production fell up to May.

On the services front, Fiji’s tourism activity remained muted as visitor arrivals contracted significantly by 56.2 percent in the year to May due to the halt in international travel and tourism. But the lifting of restrictions by the Fijian government will complement the “Love Our Locals” initiative announced by domestic tourism stakeholders and catalyse broader economic activity.

As the backbone of the Fijian economy, tourism is the most important industry in the country and it is the biggest foreign exchange earner, with 40 percent of the country’s GDP depending on tourism which employs around 150,000 people directly and indirectly.

The COVID-19 has serious impact on Fiji’s tourism. With travel restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the deadly virus, the industry, which has already laid off about 40,000 people, has been at a standstill for the past months, and more lay-offs are likely before things improve.

Recent partial indicators for consumption and investment point to contracting aggregate demand. Given the weakening domestic economy, overall labor market conditions have worsened as reflected by partial indicators. In addition, the number of jobs advertised contracted by a significant 48.8 percent on an annual basis up to May, indicating depressed recruitment intentions and business activities. Credit aggregates were reflective of the economic contraction in the review period. Domestic credit growth decelerated to 3 percent in May due to reduced lending to private sector business entities and private individuals coupled with lower net credit to the public non-financial corporations and state and local government.

In the same period, commercial banks‘outstanding lending and deposit rates both declined over the month. Excess liquidity in the banking system remained ample at 849 million Fijian dollars (about 389.7 million United States dollars) at the end of May on account of RBF’s investment in government bonds, higher foreign reserves and the reduction in currency in circulation over the month.

As of June 29, excess liquidity stood at 780.5 million Fijian dollars (about 358.2 million United States dollars).

Annual inflation in the island nation reduced further to -1.7 percent in May from -1.3 percent noted in April and was significantly lower than the 2.1 percent recorded in May last year. Over the month in May, foreign reserves rose by 32.7 million Fijian dollars (about 15 million United States dollars) to 2,249.7 million Fijian dollars (about 1032.6 million United States dollars), sufficient to cover 7 months of retained imports.

As of June 30, Fiji’s foreign reserves totalled 2,181.4 million Fijian dollars (about 1001.3 million United States dollars), sufficient to cover 6.8 months of retained imports. In light of the latest developments and the stable outlook for inflation and foreign reserves, the central bank maintained its accommodative stance and kept the Overnight Policy Rate at 0.25 percent in June.

(XINHUA)

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Fiji expected to have a weak economy due to COVID-19

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The Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) said on Thursday that the Fijian economy is anticipated to contract severely this year with sector performances significantly weak to date due to the implication of COVID-19.

According to a RBF statement, the Fijian central bank Governor Ariff Ali said that recent partial indicators for consumption and investment continue to point to falling aggregate demand while overall labour market conditions have worsened with continuous job losses.

Given the weak economy in Fiji, domestic credit has slowed further and the number of non-performing loans has risen, he said, adding that the financial system continues to be assessed as sound, underpinned by solid capitalization and liquidity ratios.

Commercial banks‘cost of funds has generally fallen owing to the high levels of excess liquidity which totalled 796.9 million Fijian dollars (about 365.9 million United States dollars) as at June 24.

In addition, the easing of some COVID-19 restrictions by the Fijian government will see the restart of some economic activity.

Annual inflation remained in negative territory in May (-1.7 percent) and is forecast to edge up to 1.0 percent by year-end. Foreign reserves are around 2,203.9 million Fijian dollars (about 1,011.8 million United States dollars) sufficient to cover 6.9 months of retained imports and are expected to remain comfortable in the medium-term.

The unveiling of the national budget in July could catalyze economic activity further and that RBF will maintain its current accommodative stance given the stable outlook for foreign reserves and inflation.

(XINHUA)

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Fiji eases COVID-19 restrictions to restart economy

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Fiji announced to relax the COVID-19 restrictions as part of its efforts to restart the struggling economy on Sunday.

   Speaking in a public announcement on Sunday, Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said there had been 64 days since Fiji confirmed its last new case of the virus and well over two weeks since the last of its patients registered full recoveries.

   He announced Phase Two of Fiji’s COVID safe economic recovery, saying that the careFiji app using Bluetooth technology to make contact tracing has formed a foundation of the island nation’s economic recovery.

   According the prime minister, from Monday, the nationwide curfew hours in Fiji since March 30 will be lifted from 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. as opposed to 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Night clubs will remain closed.

   Social gathering numbers, which also include gatherings at weddings, funerals, cafes, restaurants and worship, will increase to 100 people from 20 or fewer while social distancing still applies.

   Schools will be resumed in two stages. Year 12 and 13 students will start classes on June 30, and tertiary institutions can also open for face to face classes from June 30. The rest of the country’s primary and secondary schools and early childhood centers will be open from July 6.

   Gyms and pools at hotels can also be resumed from Monday, sporting venues can hold sports at 50 percent capacity so long as social distancing applies. Community sports will have a limit of 100 people. Cinemas will also be allowed to operate under 50 percent capacity.

   Safe “blue lanes” will be established with strict requirements for yachts and pleasure craft sailing to Fiji, but cruise ships are still strictly banned.

   Bainimarama also stressed that Fiji is working on its own “Bula Bubble” between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. This will allow visitors from Australia and New Zealand to enjoy Fiji’s isolated resorts.

   Fiji had a total of 18 COVID-19 patients since March 19 when its first COVID-19 case was confirmed, and the last three COVID-19 patients were fully recovered on June 5. 

(XINHUA)

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5.7-magnitude quake hits 195 km ENE of Levuka, Fiji — USGS

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.7 jolted 195 km ENE of Levuka, Fiji at 10:07:56 GMT on Friday, the United States Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 546.87 km, was initially determined to be at 17.4761 degrees south latitude and 178.9443 degrees west longitude.

(XINHUA)

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Uncertainties remain over Fiji’s tourism industry official

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A Fijian minister said on Friday that uncertainties remain over Fiji‘s tourism industry.

According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), Fiji’s Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport Faiyaz Siddiq Koya said that it is impossible to forecast when the travel industry will begin to rally against the impact of COVID-19.

“There is so much uncertainty. There’s no time-frame that the government could give to say we can open on this date,” he said.

With borders staying closed and flights grounded, even when travel resumes, it will take time for passenger confidence to bounce back, the minister said, adding that even when tourists return, he doesn’t see a mad rush of visitors wanting to holiday in the island nation.

As the backbone of the Fijian economy, tourism is the most important industry with the biggest foreign exchange earner, with 40 percent of the country’s GDP depending on tourism which employs around 150,000 people directly and indirectly.

The island nation has in recent years received more than 800,000 visitors per year. The Fijian government had also set a goal of developing the tourism industry to a 2.2 billion Fijian dollars (about 1 billion United States dollar) industry by 2021.

The COVID-19 has serious impact on Fiji’s tourism. With travel restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the deadly virus, the industry, which has already laid off about 40,000 people, has been at a standstill for the past months, and more lay-offs are likely before things improve.

While asking Fiji to be included in a planned travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand in the coming months, Fiji also launched early this month the “Love Our Locals Fiji” campaign to help the tourism industry.

The campaign, championed by Tourism Fiji with the full support of the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, embraces the spirit of love through action.

It takes inspiration from Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama‘s call to action over one year ago and asks Fijians to rally behind local restaurants, tour operators and hotels to show support for Fiji by supporting Fijian Made products and holidaying here at home.

(XINHUA)

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Fiji preserves environment for future generations official

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Preserving Fiji‘s environment and biodiversity is critical to ensure that the future generations do not face extreme drought or desertification in Fiji, said a Fijian minister on Friday.

According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), Fiji’s Minister for Environment Mahendra Reddy said the onus is on all Fijians to ensure there is sustainable land management practices done.

Reddy said they are undertaking a number of activities to make sure that sustainable land management is in place.

“Under these two strategic objectives, we have a number of activities and sub-activities which contributes towards sustainable resource management. We are required for certain plant species that if we cut down a particular tree, for example mangroves, we are required to plant six mangrove plants.”

With the theme “Food.Feed.Fibre,” this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2020 is focused on changing public attitudes to the prominent driver of desertification and land degradation.

“It’s important that we educate ourselves, the future generation, our children so that we all cherish, nourish, accept and look after our natural and biological diversity, our resources and environment,” he said.

The Ministry of Environment is encouraging Fijians to be mindful of their activities to ensure they are not jeopardizing the natural ecosystem for future generations.

The rapid decline in biodiversity is linked to the lack of action in the survival and well-being of Fiji’s biodiversity, Reddy said, adding that the survival of biodiversity depends on human actions and it is no secret that people’s biodiversity life is rapidly declining on a daily basis.

(XINHUA)

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Fiji hosts 107 movie productions in 2019

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Film Fiji through its numerous movie productions in 2019 contributed over 138 million Fijian dollars (about 63.5 million United States dollars) to Fiji’s economy.

Film Fiji Acting Chief Executive Jone Tikoca said on Thursday the achievement was made after hosting 107 movie productions in Fiji which was also a source of employment for 2,700 Fijians.

However, Fiji’s thriving film industry has shifted in the last three months after losing out movie productions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tikoca said they are in constant contact with the government and overseas film producers, in an effort to boost the productivity of the industry once the border restrictions are lifted.

In 2018 around 56 foreign film productions with an estimated total spending of 85.4 million Fijian dollars (about 39.3 million United States dollars) had been shot in Fiji.

Film Fiji said earlier these productions generated 240 million Fijian dollars (about 110.4 million United States dollars) into Fiji’s economy.

In 2017, a total of 74 foreign productions were shot in Fiji and they were worth 308 million Fijian dollars (about 141.7 million United States dollars) with a generated economic activity of 361 million Fijian dollars (about 166.1 million United States dollars).

(XINHUA)

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Fiji records increase in entrepreneurial farming during COVID-19

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Fiji‘s Ministry of Agriculture has recorded an increase in entrepreneurial farming amidst COVID-19.

Permanent Secretary for Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture Ritesh Dass said Wednesday there is a pronounced interest from Fijians at household level to invest in commercial farming due to the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), Dass said this was a positive thing as it would further boost the agriculture sector on the island nation. He said Fijians with land wanted to invest in it while those who did not have land wanted to lease and establish farms.

Dass said many families were investing in backyard gardens and most Fijians were enquiring about securing commercial agricultural plots boosting the agriculture sector.

He said farming should be part of everyone’s lives as such activities can create numerous opportunities for Fiji.

“One good thing that’s come out of COVID-19 is that there is a realization that food is a necessity and to address the issue of food security but mostly insecurity in Fiji farming is the way to go.”

The ministry said farming should not only be an activity or profession but a way of life as it comes in handy during difficult times.

According to Investment Fiji, agriculture is a mainstay of Fiji’s economy, contributing around 28 percent to total employment in the formal sector and indirectly employing many more.

This sector contributes 451 million Fijian dollars (about 206 million United States dollars) annually to the nation’s GDP.

Agriculture plays an important role in the process of rural development. Having a rich resource base and tropical climate, Fiji has an advantage in producing a wide variety of tropical fruits and vegetables given the fast expanding tourism sector, agricultural growth is necessary to supply high local hotel demand.

(XINHUA)

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Fijian PM urges to reduce import by planting food for tourists

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Fiji‘s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on Tuesday urged local farmers to grow more food in the island nation.

Speaking during the launch of the Nubu Farms in Nadarivatu, Naitasiri, one of Fiji’s 14 provinces on the main island of Viti Levu, Bainimarama said Fiji is blessed with vast land that should be utilized by local farmers.

In 2019 alone, over 5.4 million Fijian dollars (about 2.5 million United States dollars) of carrots and over 1.8 million Fijian dollars (about 829,980 United States dollars) of celery were imported even though it can be easily grown in Nadarivatu’s ideal climate.

Nadarivatu has the tropical rainforest climate prevailing with an average annual temperature of 30 degrees and about 2,318 mm of rain in a year.

Bainimarama said not all food in Fiji for visitors is grown locally in commercial quantities as kitchen essentials such as onions, garlic, carrots and celery are imported by hotel and restaurant managers for tourists.

While the 2020 tourism industry has been crippled due to COVID-19, the Fijian government is working hard to get the sector back up and running, he said, adding that when tourism returns to some form of normalcy, he wants more value of big import bills to stay in Fiji.

Meanwhile, Fiji’s Minister for Agriculture Mahendra Reddy said contracted farmers will not need to worry about taking their produce to markets as the Agro Marketing Authority (AMA) will buy directly from them.

AMA is responsible for the purchasing of crops from farmers and for all orders either overseas or for local markets.

(XINHUA)

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