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Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today at this official commissioning of the electrification project here in Nasautoka and also to open electricity projects in many of our surrounding villages and settlements.

I’m very glad to be back in Fiji to spend time with your community at such an exciting time, as you welcome – for the first time – the immense benefits of electric power. The past two months have been a very busy time for us, as the world looked to Fiji to take the lead in confronting one of the great challenges of our time – climate change. And I’ve had to spend many long days and nights away from our shores, and far too much time up in the air, in my role as COP23 President.

I’m sure that many of you saw the headlines, as Fiji assumed the Presidency of the global negotiations on climate change last month in Bonn, Germany. We became the first small island nation to ever preside over the negotiations, and we used our platform to make real progress in the global struggle to address the disastrous impacts of climate change.

Your community saw the full brunt of Cyclone Winston last year, so I know I don’t need to spend much time telling any of you about the threat from climate change that we face, because you know climate impacts are already upon us.

That is why I’m so proud to say that we succeeded in our mission in Germany this November to move forward the Paris Agreement and work to reduce the harmful emissions that are causing climate change. On top of that, we marked a number of major victories that will help protect climate-vulnerable people from the worsening effects of climate change, including the expansion of access to critical finance that we, and other vulnerable nations, need to adapt our economies to the reality of climate change.

At the COP itself, one of the very best moments was owed to one true son of Wainibuka, Timoci Naulusala, who bravely took centre stage during COP23 to speak on his own experience during Cyclone Winston, and the need for action in addressing climate change. And I would like to thank all you for lending him to us in Bonn, and helping create one of most special moments I’ve had the chance to experience as your Prime Minister.

I’ve said many times that, while the threat is great, we cannot allow the reality of climate change to stall our development. We have to keep Fiji moving forward, and we have to keep up our work to make life better for every Fijian, everywhere in Fiji, by delivering real improvements that hold real benefits for ordinary men and women.

Over the last ten years, we’ve followed a simple strategy for success; invest in development, expand access to services and give all Fijians the chance to realise their full potential, as citizens, as students, as parents and as providers. Village by village and community by community we’ve unleashed a wave of progress across Fiji, and combined with our sound financial management, we’ve carried our economy to eight straight years of economic growth.

And what have we done as we’ve welcomed economic prosperity? We’ve done our duty – as mandated by the Fijian Constitution – and we’ve spread the benefits of our success far and wide across the country, including here in Nasautoka.

In our rural communities, we are putting in place a solid foundation of essential services so that ordinary men and women can go about their lives without worrying about finding water, keeping the lights on at night or staying connected with the rest of our nation. This project is part of that vision.

Now that you’ve received access to electric power, this community has not only been made safer at all hours of the day, you now have access to an entire world of new possibilities. Your community can stay active long after the sun has set, your children can study into the night, you can spend time with your families and loved ones and you no longer must depend on inefficient diesel generators or lantern lamps to keep the lights on.

This project is part of a massive programme of rural electrification my Government is funding throughout the country, this year alone we’ve allocated 42.6 million dollars to electrify more than 6,000 homes in rural areas across Fiji.

This grid extension project will provide a reliable power supply to 289 families by connecting five villages and three settlements to our grid, 24 hours a day seven days a week, and has been completed at a cost of just over 1.7 million dollars. And this is only one part of our larger Korovou to Rakiraki Grid Extension under development by my Government.

My fellow Fijians, our work isn’t only about making services available, it’s about making those services accessible and affordable. My Government has a network of support in place to assist Fijian families earning less than 30,000 dollars a year and using 100 kilowatt hours or less electricity a month. Such households are entitled to a fifty per cent subsidy on their electricity bills. If you qualify for this subsidy programme, please apply at any office of our national electricity provider, the Fiji Electricity Authority.

As part of our national grid, your economic prospects are brimming like never before. But it is up to all of you to realise that opportunity. Access to power is an enormous advantage, it allows you to become more productive and accomplish far more on a daily basis. Don’t let this chance go to waste. Apply yourselves, continue making your valuable contributions to our national development, and together, let’s carry Fiji into an even brighter future.

This project has been made possible by Fiji’s prosperity, and only through greater prosperity can more development take place in our beloved Fiji. We’ve achieved much over the last decade, with bold leadership from my Government and unrelenting effort from ordinary Fijians. That must continue, we must keep Fiji on the path of progress and the fast track of development, and we must keep building up Nasautoka and every city, town and community in Fiji.
With those few words, I now have great pleasure in declaring these electrification projects open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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