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Honourable Cabinet Ministers;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
Permanent Secretaries;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Young People of Fiji;
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

I’m delighted to be here this evening, among such promising young Fijian entrepreneurs, along with those here who have a bit more experience, who have come to show their support for the next generation of leaders, job creators and business pioneers.

Tonight, it is my great pleasure to launch the Fijian Young Entrepreneurship Scheme or YES, for short.

We are gathered here this evening because we all share a deep and abiding belief in the power and potential of young Fijians, and we are here to celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of five young men and women who have put forward innovative ideas that we believe are going to seriously shape the Fiji of tomorrow.

These young people have been selected by the YES judging panel after demonstrating that they not only have great business ideas, but that they have a game plan to turn those ideas into profitable businesses, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting these young entrepreneurs on stage later this evening.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I’m sure many of you have seen, the first round of statistics from the 2017 Census were published yesterday. According to that Census, half of our population is below the age of 27 and a half and 69 per cent of Fijians are below the age of 40.

What that means is that we are a very young nation. That can be an enormous advantage, but if – and only if – we give our young people the support and resources they need to grow into productive, educated and ambitious Fijians.

We have to light a fire in the hearts and minds of young Fijians – instilling them with a great belief in themselves, and in the potential of this nation. We have to inspire them with our own actions and set a high bar of expectation for what Fiji can achieve.

As your Prime Minister, as a father and a grandfather, I believe nothing is more important than leaving behind a better Fiji, and a better world, for our young people to inherit – and that is the spirit that has driven my Government’s agenda, both here at home and abroad.

Generations of Fijians, and citizens from every nation on earth, are better off because of our presidency of COP23 and co-chairing of the first-ever UN Oceans Conference on the international stage. And we’ve brought that same level of commitment to our work at home, as we’ve sought to create an environment where our young people can develop, find their calling and have a bigger and bolder impact on our national life.

That starts by fostering an enterprising culture in Fiji, which we’ve done by empowering ordinary men and women, hearing their ideas and betting big on their abilities.

Through our micro and small business grant scheme, we’ve funded bankable business ideas from thousands of Fijian entrepreneurs, giving them the chance to put their business plans and acumen to the test, hire their fellow Fijians in support of their dreams and help grow our booming economy.

And, of course, nothing guarantees a brighter future for Fiji than the education of our children. This financial year, we allocated a record 964 Million Dollars towards the education of young Fijians, pouring resources into scholarships, new resilient school construction and my Government’s landmark policies that have driven Fiji’s education revolution; free education, free textbooks and subsidised bus fares, tertiary scholarships, and affordable tertiary loan scheme.

Our work is fielding the most talented and competitive workforce in Fijian history; young people equipped with the know-how to succeed in the modern marketplace, with the confidence that they can achieve greatness. They have familiarity with the technological tools that are shaping the way consumers operate in the modern marketplace. And we need to harness those abilities, along with their inherent creativity, for the greater benefit of Fiji and the Fijian people.

We want our young people to do more than sit at the same desks in the same offices that we use today. Our youth should not only be job seekers, but they also need to be job creators that provide their fellow Fijians with new and exciting opportunities. We want our young people to think outside the box, and make Fiji a hub of innovation for the Pacific, and the world. We want them to be leaders in business, civil society and government, putting their ideas at the forefront of Fiji’s development, with their entrepreneurial spirit carrying our nation into the future.

That is what the YES initiative is all about. At the heart of this programme is a profound belief in the unique perspective brought by young Fijians and in their understanding of what our marketplace needs, both now and in the years ahead. It is about giving life to the ideas of smart and ambitious young people and to shake up Fijian society with their dreams for what is possible.

But it isn’t only in business that we need the drive, energy and enthusiasm of young Fijians. This year, we will be holding our second national elections, and it is critical that our young people involve themselves and make their voices heard in 2018. Your interests matter as much as any other citizens. You speak for the next generation, and Fiji can only continue down the path of progress with your effort and your commitment. Your support should not be determined by what you’ve been told to do by anyone.

Your vote is precious, it is the best way for you to shape what nation Fiji will grow to become, and you should cast your vote using your own intellect and based on your own belief in what is best for you, your fellow Fijians and for Fiji.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before we name our winners, I would like to thank the men and women from the private sector who have stepped up to the plate to support this important initiative, by helping select our winners and giving of their time and expertise to help guide our young entrepreneurs to success.

Our private sector partners come from a wide range of backgrounds including banking, ICT, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, pharmaceuticals, and the services industry. Together, they form a wealth of knowledge that will prove invaluable for our young entrepreneurs. I would like to especially recognise our Panel Chair, Mr. Saud Minam, the Head of ANZ Bank in Fiji. Thank you, sir, for your commitment.

The five men and women being recognised this evening have already begun the programme of mentorship through the YES initiative, and that will continue over the next month. Afterwards, they will all be eligible to receive grant funding of up to $20,000 to pursue their business ideas. And I know we all look forward to watching their businesses grow here in Fiji and one day, hopefully, far beyond our shores.

Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to announce the five winning entrepreneurs, pre-approved by the YES judging panel, and I invite our winners to join me on stage as I read out their names:

First, we have Siwan Shachin Narayan from Lautoka who aspires to launch a business to construct small family homes to expand access to affordable housing options for the Fijian people.

Next, we have Sandhya Sivanjali Gounder from Nadi, who is looking to begin a hydroponic farm in Fiji, an innovative method of growing plants without soil using mineral nutrient solutions.

Rovial Ryanl Kumar from Votualevu, also wants to start an agri-business, by applying organic farming techniques to grow seeds and leverage technology to promote more intelligent farm planning.

Next, we have Atunaisa Rainima from Tailevu who wants to start a lawn and landscaping services business that converts garden refuse into cooking gas.

And finally, we have Vincent Padiachy from Labasa as he would like to venture into bee farming to produce honey milk flavoured ice cream. And, who knows, maybe Fijian honey milk ice cream will eventually become among our top exports.

You are all embarking on a very exciting journey, but anyone who has succeeded in business can tell you, it won’t all be roses. Your progress will be uneven, there will be moments of frustration. But in those moments, you will be taught the most impactful lessons of all, you will grow and you will emerge better, stronger and more capable of greatness.

Always know that your Government believes in you, we support you, and we want you to do well. Always know that your fellow Fijians are rooting for you to succeed, for yourselves, for your families and for Fiji. I wish you all the best, and I am very much looking forward to follow your progress in the months and years ahead. Congratulations.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications