New Zealand companies are among the major beneficiaries of the existing and emerging potential for major infrastructure projects in Fiji, Honorary Consul Harish Lodhia has said.
He said that Higgins Contractors (for road works in West Division), Fulton Hogan, Hiway Stabilisers (Central Division) and Blacktop Construction Limited (North) were among the three New Zealand-owned companies that won the contracts valued at F$ 420 million.
Speaking to the delegates attending the annual conference of the NZ Fiji Business Council & Fiji NZ Business Council at the Ellerslie Event Centre in Auckland on June 13, he said that the amount constituted the single largest investment in Fiji’s history.
He quoted Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama as saying that Suva was determined to fix the problem of roads, since good transportation holds the key to commercial and industrial progress.
A day earlier, speaking at a function held at the Higgins site in Nadi to commemorate the inauguration of the Higgins Deport in Nadi, Mr Bainimarama had said that the largest spending initiative would help build, repair, upgrade and maintain roads in Fiji.
“This is a flagship policy in a comprehensive set of reforms to create jobs, grow the economy and attract investment. It is taking time to attend to every job. The neglect, inefficiency and corruption of previous years cannot be fixed overnight. But the work that was badly needed has begun in earnest and we are all starting to see the results.
“My Government is committed to this massive project in the West as well as the rest of Fiji, because the state of our roads impacts the health of the entire economy and life of every Fijian,” he said.
According to Mr Bainimarama, graft and absence of accountability and transparency, compounded by political instability, had eroded investor confidence in Fiji.
Mr Lodhia said that the Fijian Government was taking a series of steps to promote foreign and domestic investment in infrastructure projects, stimulate the economy, provide employment to the people and foster economic growth and social progress.
As well as streamlining systems and procedures, the Government has addressed the problem of corruption that had become endemic in its polity over the past few decades, he said.
“The changes implemented over the past six years have been positive, brightening the prospects for people keen to do business with Fiji. The Government is actively encouraging business delegations to visit various parts of the country, meet with officials and businesspersons and see for themselves the congenial atmosphere that exists for their benefit. Fiji’s High Commission is actively involved in organising such missions,” Mr Lodhia said.
He said that a New Zealand business delegation that visited Fiji in March this year was impressed with the ground realities and the progress being achieved (Indian Newslink, April 1, 2013) and that another delegation of about 12 businesspersons would visit Fiji at the end of this month.
“The importance of Fiji and the significance of keeping its economy on the move cannot be over-emphasised, either in the context of New Zealand or the South Pacific region as a whole. Its political stability, economic development and social progress are essential ingredients to the future of this region. As a country of friendly people and rich natural environment, Fiji has always been a major attraction to New Zealanders as tourists, businesspersons and investors,” Mr Lodhia said.
He said that the Fijian Government is promoting agricultural and economic reforms and regional trade agreements.
“There is increasing scope for our entrepreneurs in general and former citizens and residents of Fiji in particular, to benefit from the enormous potential that the country offers in terms of manufacturing, trade, public utility projects and other services. As a part of its efforts to encourage Fijians living overseas to participate in the exciting developments taking place in Fiji, the Government has launched the ‘Dual Citizenship Scheme’ to make it possible for former Fijian citizens to reclaim their passports and consider a long-term engagement with their homeland,” Mr Lodhia said.
The first picture published here shows Bainimarama opening the office of the Higgins Western Depot in Nadi on June 12, watched by Tui Nadi Ratu Sailosi Dawai and Higgins Chairman Sir Patrick Higgins.
The second picture shows Harish Lodhia with COO and Head of Investment Manuel Valdez of the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest at the Conference of New Zealand & Fiji Business Councils in Auckland on June 13