Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has sought the assistance of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in securing loans on ‘favourable conditions’ for his country’s development programmes.
He also told the oil-rich Arab Gulf Emirate to consider opening a diplomatic mission in Suva to promote better bilateral relations.
He was speaking at a meeting with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan who was in the Fijian capital on an official visit on February 18, 2015.
“We established our embassy in Abu Dhabi, the first in the Middle East and Africa region in 2012. Since then, our bilateral relations have grown immensely and our engagements in the region have increased significantly. In light of our flourishing bilateral relations, Fiji stands ready to assist the UAE should it consider establishing a diplomatic presence in Suva, as the hub of the South Pacific, to serve the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) region,” he said.
This was the second visit of Sheikh Abdullah to Fiji since 2010 and came as a part of his visits to Australia and New Zealand during which UAE signed a number of significant agreements with the two Tasman countries.
He did not make any commitments regarding opening his country’s diplomatic mission in Fiji but the growing importance of the South Pacific region would encourage a move in the direction in the foreseeable future.
Mr Bainimarama used the opportunity of the visit of Sheikh Abdullah to invite UAE to attend the third Summit of the PDIS leaders in Fiji in August and to seek financial assistance for his country’s development projects.
“My Government has embarked on major infrastructure development programmes for national road links and rural feeder roads, reliable water supply, improvements to Sea and Air ports. As such, my Government would request to have a more structured development assistance programme with your Government. I would also seek your assistance in encouraging commercial or development banks in the UAE to offer favourable loan conditions to assist Fiji in its national development. This will improve investment and commercial relations between the two countries that will bring about greater benefits to our two peoples,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama also reminded Sheikh Abdullah that he had returned Fiji to democracy through the general election held on September 17, 2014. He described the progress of his country on people’s representation since his previous visit as ‘monumental.’
“As well as restoring democracy, we have the first woman Speaker in the Fijian Parliament. Our return to parliamentary democracy was enabled under a new democratic and inclusive Constitution with the conduct of a free and fair election. The results of our national elections broadly represented the will of the Fijian people and my Government is excited with the promise that this brings to the future of this country,” he said.
Work in progress
He however acknowledged the enormity of tasks that confront Fiji.
He said that he was confident of achieving further progress with the assistance of the international community.
“We will build a better Fiji for all. We have learnt so much from our recent past and I thank our close friends, including UAE for their understanding and patience at a time when many of our traditional partners relegated their engagement with us,” Mr Bainimarama said.
Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Suva on February 18