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Turaga na Talatala;
Advisory Councillor, Nawaka;
Government Officials;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

What an exciting way to kick-off the New Year in Vunarewa, as your community welcomes the comfort, security and convenience of reliable and affordable electric power.
This rural electrification project I am opening today will bring 105 Fijians in the Vunarewa Settlement onto our national grid, giving them access to the enormous benefits of electricity. This is one of several rural electrification projects I’ve had the pleasure of opening these past few weeks, and again today we are taking another step along the path of progress my Government has charted for Fiji and the Fijian people over the last ten years.

When we invest in development, like this electrification project, we bring Fiji and the Fijian people close to realising our tremendous potential as a nation. Of course, we have the big projects – the roads, bridges, jetties, and even the new airport here in Nadi – but it’s these small projects as well that make a real difference in the lives of our people. And every step we take, no matter how small, is part of our great journey forward as a nation.

This project, and all of the developments we’ve brought to Fiji, is part of our simple strategy for success – a strategy we’ve stuck with over the past decade. When we invest in infrastructure and expand access to services, such as electric power, we give ordinary Fijians the chance to be everything they are capable of being, as citizens, students, parents and providers. Combined with our sound financial management, we’ve created an engine of progress that has carried our economy to eight straight years of growth, with nothing but positive projections in the years ahead.

My Government knows what works when it comes to managing and growing an economy. And as we’ve welcomed economic prosperity, we’ve done our duty – as mandated by the Fijian Constitution – by spreading the benefits of our success to every corner of the country, including here in Vunarewa.

For our rural areas, that has meant building a solid foundation of essential services, so that Fijians in these communities can go beyond 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.

I know many of you go to work in Nadi, and you’ve seen first-hand how beneficial electric power can be in raising standards of living and in helping get more done in a given day. Now, that ease and reliability have made their way directly to your community, and every member of your families can keep the lights on without having to rely on inefficient diesel generators or lantern lamps. Your entire community can stay active long after the sun has set, your children can study into the night and you can spend more time with your families and loved ones.

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 homes in rural areas across Fiji.

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 support eligible Fijians with a fifty per cent subsidy on electricity bills.

Families earning less than 30,000 Dollars a year qualify for this subsidy programme, with up to the first 100 kilowatt hours of electricity a month subsidised. If you meet these requirements please apply at any office of our national electricity provider, the Fiji Electricity Authority.

Now that you are all part of our national grid, you’ve gained access to an entire new world of possibilities, and I know your community takes that opportunity seriously, and I look forward to watching your community get the most out of this development for years to come and seeing the benefits it will have for all of you; especially your young people, who can now learn and grow with the great comfort of reliable electric power.

This project is an investment, an investment we’ve been able to make because our economy has done so well. Only with greater prosperity can we continue to bring even greater development into the lives of the Fijian people.

My fellow Fijians, as you all know, with the election on the horizon this year, many of the usual faces will come forward with their usual political messages. And I’m sad to say that we’ve already started to hear many of the same false promises and see the same dirty tactics employed by those in the Opposition.

As always, I ask you to think for yourselves and put your best interests first. You must protect yourselves from those who would use you to help themselves. Don’t buy into the falsehoods from people who aren’t in your positions and don’t understand your situation. Don’t let yourself become tools for someone else’s political gain.

As I said last week, I’ve been sad to see that the interests of some unionists and politicians have been put ahead of many of our people, particularly those working here in Nadi. Unfortunately, some have failed to step back and see the bigger picture, and consider how their actions affect the working of our larger economy. Many of you work in our tourism industry, you know that our industry, and our economy, succeeds only when we work together as a team, when we can depend on another to put in the hours and get the job done.

I’ve been told there is a march planned in Nadi this weekend, and again, I fear it will simply be another opportunity for those seeking relevance ahead of the elections to try and gain political mileage on the backs of ordinary Fijians.

Personally, I’ve always put my stock in the ability, common sense and know-how of the Fijian people. Here in Nadi, you can see for yourselves the new state-of-the-art airport, the world-class roads and the other networks of infrastructure my Government has delivered for the Fijian people. You can see for yourselves that my Government has a winning game plan for Fiji and, make no mistake, we are going to stick by that game plan moving forward.

We’ve taken our nation to unprecedented heights because we’ve stood together, as team players, united in our vision for what Fiji can achieve. That will always be the spirit that drives my Government’s agenda, and that is the only way we can continue to make life better for our people.

With those few words, I now have great pleasure in declaring this electrification project open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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