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Today, I have the pleasure of distributing 1.5 Million Dollars in lease security bonus payments to our landowners – matching the record setting payment that was distributed last year. It’s hard to believe that our first lease bonus payment in 2013 stood at 350,000 Dollars, and today – only five years later – this payment stands at more than four times that amount, as we celebrate another big win for Fiji Pine, our landowners and the entire Fijian economy.
It’s true, your geography presents serious challenges to development. But that is not your burden to bear. It is the duty of my Government to make special efforts to meet those challenges, and we are doing just that. By being innovative and thinking creatively we are extending the prosperity we are achieving for Fiji directly to your communities.
I’m delighted to be here as we mark the start of our new financial year and bring into effect an unprecedented measure to protect our natural environment from pollution – a new ten cents levy on plastic bags.
I’m delighted to be here in Nasinu –the heart of our largest centre of population and one of the fastest growing areas in all of Fiji – as we break ground for the construction of the new Laqere Market.
My Government has brought eight straight years of economic growth to Fiji, and that has brought with it enormous change. As that prosperity spreads across our islands, ordinary Fijians are becoming more engaged with our economy, and they need a development bank that is ready to support them as they step up their role in our national development.
Along with building our resilience to climate change, the expansion of Fiji’s trade with the rest of the world is among my government’s top priorities. So I’m delighted to be spearheading the first dedicated trade and investment mission to one of the most dynamic economies in our region – the state of Queensland.
I want to congratulate the organisers at UNDP Pacific and urge as many Fijians as possible to come to the Fiji Museum to see it. Because it transforms the 17 SDGs from words on a page – a bold statement of principles – into compelling images to which we can all relate. We can all appreciate.
Madam Speaker, above all this budget is fair. It balances the needs of everyone. It empowers more Fijians than ever before. And it builds on the achievements of previous years, setting us on a path for renewed growth in 2018 and beyond.
What’s important given the immensity of the challenge we face to persuade the world to act on climate change is to stick together. Because we are going to be far more effective if we speak with one voice - the voice of the Pacific, the voice of the some of the most vulnerable, demanding action and demanding to be heard.
Nothing else will matter in the least if we can’t secure our future in the face of climate change. It is the number one issue in Fiji and the entire world. And having been asked to lead that fight by the global community, I am going to do it and do it to the best of my ability. Because everything we hold dear as a nation depends on it. Our way of life, the future of our children, the future of our beloved Fiji.
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