I am very happy to be here this evening as we celebrate a half century of service from our national electricity provider, the Fiji Electricity Authority. An organisation that thousands of Fijians rely upon to keep the lights on, but more than that, it is an organisation that – every day – brings warmth, security and peace of mind into the lives of our people.
We are here because we all recognize that access to clean water is one of the most – if not the most – important determinants of quality of life. Truly, there is almost no aspect of development that is not directly influenced by reliable access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
One of the most important objectives of the Fijian Government is to see our local enterprises grow and contribute more each day to our nation’s economy. Statistics show that our MSME sector represents around 10-12% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But we believe this estimate of the contribution of the micro and small businesses is understated. This is mainly because micro and small businesses operate in the informal sector, so it can be hard to come up with accurate statistics. Since the beginning of this micro- and small-business grant initiative we have been able to bring 6,622 micro and small businesses into the formal sector.
The time for casting blame is over. I will be the first to admit that I have railed against the developed economies for causing this crisis. And to be sure, it’s the developed economies that produce the most carbon emissions. But they are also responsible for most of the gains in technology, science, medicine and other fields that have improved the lives of all people—and the technology and learning we will need to solve this crisis. And it is also a fact that we have been striving to give our people a chance at that same standard of living.
The 2030 Agenda, with Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans represents our last chance. It provides a global roadmap that paves the way for humanity to once and for all salvage our ocean from its current cycle of decline. SDG14 is something we in the Pacific can take pride in, as it is through our dedicated efforts in New York that SDG14 was adopted. And now we must make SDG14 work.
It is Government’s responsibility to be the guiding hand in this, to make sure that as many Fijians as possible are served by government programs, and that we build and upgrade infrastructure and establish new facilities around the country. People in all parts of the country have needs, and I have committed to make sure that no part of the country is neglected.
The changing climate is placing challenges before all of us, which is why I will be dedicating a good part of the next year to leading the global effort to slow that change down and help people adapt to it. It is so important that I have decided that Fiji will defer our candidacy for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. We are a small country, and this year our Ambassador in Geneva and our foreign-policy resources need to be focused on climate change and our presidency of COP 23. We simply cannot do them both and do them well. And right now, climate change is the wolf at our front door. But I can assure you that we will renew our candidacy following our presidency of COP 23.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we all know that domestic violence in Fiji is far too common. We are working hard in Government and civil society to end it, but I say that more can be done. You have heard me say many times—and I will say it again: Domestic violence is a national shame. Rape is a national shame. And together we must do much more to stop them.
We come together as a nation today in a solemn act of faith – a service of remembrance and thanksgiving to commemorate the first anniversary of one of the most traumatic days in Fijian history.
No other government in Fijian history has done more to develop our economy and the tourism industry in particular. No other government has looked at the Fijian economy holistically as we have. Our record of economic management is unrivalled – seven straight years of growth including an impressive two per cent in one of the most testing years in our history.