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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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Foreign

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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Fijians encouraged to experience local tourism to help mitigate impact of COVID-19

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Fijians have now been encouraged to experience local tourism products as part of the Fijian government’s efforts to cope with the impact of COVID-19.

Tourism Fiji‘s CEO Matthew Stoeckel said on Monday that with the recently-launched “Love Our Locals Fiji” campaign, this is the first time Tourism Fiji is taking a domestic tourism initiative and its primary role is to encourage Fijians to experience the nation’s tourism products.

The campaign has another goal that is to work with the operators to develop local family packages and products that encourage those that are able to stay in operation through this time to look at how they can best cater for the local market, he said, adding that there are more than 70 operators that have come onboard with this campaign and are giving special deals for locals.

They will initially be running this campaign for 12 months and are hoping to continue after their international visitors return.

Early this month, Fiji launched the “Love Our Locals Fiji” campaign, which was championed by Tourism Fiji with the full support of the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport. It embraces the spirit of love through action in the face of an industry and Fijians that are hurting.

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.

As the backbone of the Fijian economy, tourism is the most important industry which is the biggest foreign exchange earner.

Fourty percent of Fiji’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is dependent 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, and with travel restrictions 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 three months now.

According to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics on Monday, provisional numbers show that Fiji’s visitor arrivals for May this year totaled 709 compared to 73,169 for May 2019. Of the 709 visitors, 15 came by air while 694 came by sea.

(XINHUA)

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Fijian businesses opt for cashless transactions through M-PAiSA app during COVID-19

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More Fijian businesses are using Vodafone M-PAiSA QR Pay mobile platform as a mode of payment in a move towards a cashless society in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic as remittances increase.

The network’s new initiative that was established in 2019 has so far processed around 22,000 transactions worth 6 million Fijian dollars (about 2.7 million United States dollars) and registered 60 local businesses.

Krishneel Reddy, Territory Executive M-PAiSA ,said Wednesday they received a major boost to their QR mobile platform at the beginning of the year in 2020.

COVID-19 was another way in which our business did pick up. So a lot of businesses thought of a new way of doing business and they wanted to go cashless as customers could not come to their offices.”

There has also been an increase in MPAiSA remittances.

M-PAiSA App keeps Fiji abreast with global technological advancements.

Vodafone Chief Marketing Officer Rajinesh Prasad said earlier the product was developed in-house and is available to everyone from the large businesses to smaller merchants and even market vendors where they can transact using QR Pay.

Prasad said the use of the QR Pay by consumers and merchants does not incur them any costs but there would be a fee applied to all businesses in the future.

QR Pay could be used in areas where there was also no electricity supply. The Fijian government has been introducing more initiatives to make Fiji a cashless society.

Following the Fijian government’s announcement in the 2018/2019 Budget to wave Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) fees, banks like Bank of South Pacific (BSP) had taken steps to reduce the fees related to the merchant service.

BSP Country Head Haroon Ali said last year these initiatives are aimed at supporting the idea of Fiji becoming a cashless society.

“Use the bank cards in lieu of cash and that has lots of benefits for customers and the merchants. For the merchants they do not have to worry about handling cash and then delivering the cash to the bank. You got security concerns, you got to meet your insurance needs, so it is beneficial for everyone.”

(XINHUA)

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Fijian Prime Minister declares country COVID-19 free

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Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe ‘Frank’ Bainimarama said on Friday that the Pacific Island country had no more active cases of COVID-19.

Bainimarama made this known on Twitter.

“And even with our testing numbers climbing by the day, it’s now been 45 days since we recorded our last case. With no deaths, our recovery rate is 100 per cent.

“Answered prayers, hard work, and affirmation of science!,” Bainimarama tweeted.

Fiji had 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since it was first reported on March 19.

The country, which has a population of more than 900,000 last recorded a coronavirus case on April 21.

Earlier, Fiji’s health minister, Ifereimi Waqainabete, said that the last three COVID-19 patients, including a 12-year-old girl, were cleared to be free of the disease on Friday morning.

They were all residents of capital Suva.

Waqainabete said the government has continued testing any and all suspected cases referred to them on a regular basis.

“We cannot drop our guard,” he said.

More than 2,000 COVID-19 tests have been done in Fiji.

About 100 people are still in quarantine facilities, but none of them have tested positive for coronavirus.

Fiji is one of the very few countries in the Pacific Ocean region that had confirmed cases of COVID-19, unlike its neighbours Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, and several others.

Fiji has closed its borders to all travellers from abroad but organised rare chartered flights for its citizens.

The country still has restrictions on social gatherings to 20 people and a nationwide overnight curfew.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Fijian police seek legal advice to charge ninth COVID-19 patient

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The Fijian Police are seeking further legal advice to charge the island nation’s ninth COVID-19 patient, who returned from India and infected several other persons.

Fijian Police Commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho, confirmed on Friday that their investigators will be seeking further legal advice before the 54-year-old man from the village of Soasoa in Labasa, capital of Fiji’s second-largest island of Vanua Levu, gets produced in the Labasa Magistrates Court.

The man was taken in by police for questioning on Thursday for allegedly not following quarantine restrictions when he came back from India late March this year.

The Fijian Ministry of Health had earlier confirmed that they were able to trace 834 people, who had come into contact with the man, who remains in custody.

The Fijian Police also said earlier that they have questioned the country’s first COVID-19 patient over details he gave health officials.

Fiji has recorded a total of 18 COVID-19 cases since March 19, of which, 15 have recovered.

To further curb the spread of the deadly virus, Fiji still maintains the nationwide curfew from March 30.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Fijian police seek legal advice to charge ninth COVID-19 patient

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The Fijian police are seeking further legal advice to charge the island nation’s ninth COVID-19 patient who returned from India and infected several other persons.

Fijian police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho confirmed on Friday that their investigators will be seeking further legal advice before the 54-year-old man from the village of Soasoa in Labasa, capital of Fiji‘s second largest island of Vanua Levu gets produced in the Labasa Magistrates Court.

The man was taken in by police for questioning on Thursday for allegedly not following quarantine restrictions when he came back from India late March this year.

The Fijian Ministry of Health had earlier confirmed that they were able to trace a total of 834 people who had come into contact with the man who remains in custody.

The Fijian police also said earlier that they have questioned the country’s first COVID-19 patient over details he gave health officials.

Fiji has recorded a total of 18 COVID-19 cases since March 19, of which, 15 have recovered.

To further curb the spread of the deadly virus, Fiji still maintains the nationwide curfew from March 30 this year.

(XINHUA)

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Fijian police use body cams, drones to track down drug cultivators, pushers

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The Fijian police are now using body cameras and drones to track people farming and selling drugs like marijuana on the island nation.

Fiji‘s Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho said Thursday that serious crimes and crimes against women and children have decreased in the past few months, however, the fight against drug continues and the Fijian police are stepping up on its raids.

He said that the police officers are now utilizing body cameras during raids as a lot of accusations were being made against officers in the past ordering on brutality.

“Because we have seen over time that the first thing that people who are raided do is to go and lodge a report or run to the media that we were heavy-handed in the way we raided their properties. So we have got body cams now and we have employed drones.”

Qiliho said earlier that the shattering impact of drug consumption in Fiji is his biggest worry as the smuggling of hard drugs continues to evolve every day in the island nation.

Fiji’s Deputy Secretary for Defence and National Security Ilai Moceica said at a Narcotics Workshop in Fiji‘s capital Suva last year that 100 patients were admitted at a local psychiatric hospital from May 2017 to April 2018 due to substance abuse alone.

The most commonly abused substances in Fiji are marijuana, methamphetamine, cigarettes, kava and alcohol, Moceica said.

He urged stakeholders to holistically view this as a national problem and come up with strategic solutions that will not only allow enforcement agencies to curb the illicit use of drugs and eradicating cultivators but also commit Fiji’s resources and time to this worthy cause.

Last year, the Fijian police seized drugs worth over 94 million U.S. dollars in the island nation.

(XINHUA)

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More than 2,400 Fijians have tested for COVID-19

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Fiji has conducted COVID-19 test on more than 2,400 people, with 18 of them positive, health officials said Wednesday.

Fiji’s Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete told the parliament on Wednesday that the health ministry has extended its testing facilities in addition to its main Center for Disease Control which started such test from early March.

“We have also identified health facilities in the public and private sector division in the country to be sentinel testing sites and they are now testing patients with respiratory symptoms for COVID-19 adding further surveillance capability,”he said.

He said that among the about 2,400 Fijians who have done such test for the virus, 18 cases have been confirmed, 15 of which have fully recovered.

Fiji reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 19.

(XINHUA)

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More than 7,000 Fijian pensioners receive COVID-19 assistance

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More than 7,000 Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) pensioners received a COVID-19 relief payment on Tuesday.

FNPF Chief Executive Officer Jaoji Koroi said the payment, which ranges from 300 Fjian dollars (about 134 U.S. dollars) to 900 Fijian dollars (about 402 U.S. dollars), was disbursed directly to the fund’s active pensioners.

Pensioners, who have received a pension payment up to May 1, 2020, will have their COVID-19 relief paid directly to their bank account or by pension order.

The fund was able to provide the one-off payment to pensioners following amendments to the FNPF Act, Koroi said, adding that these amendments have allowed the fund to distribute surpluses in the Retirement Income Fund to eligible pensioners.

He said the fund is now in a strong position to consider specific benefit improvements for pensioners.

Koroi said pensioners are a high risk group that are vulnerable to COVID-19 and should not be expected to leave their homes during these times.

Fiji reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 19 and so far there are three positive cases in the country.

(XINHUA)

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