Governments cannot do everything, nor do they have a monopoly on wisdom or efficiency. So the Fijian Government regards our private sector as a vital partner in national development. Whether it is through the forging of public-private partnerships to run vital infrastructure such as our ports. Or bringing the business community into the heart of decision-making in some of our national and regional organisations.
The private sector is a vital partner with Pacific governments in the Pacific Islands Development Forum - the organisation we set up specifically to give the business community and representatives of civil society a voice in regional decision-making. The authentic voices of the grass roots in Pacific society that had been excluded from our other regional body, the “governments only” Pacific Islands Forum.
So the business community has played an important role in our collective regional call for the world to go one better than the two degrees Celsius cap on global warming agreed to in Paris. And embrace a cap of one-point-five degrees over pre-industrial levels.
This was a significant participation by business in trying to address the root cause of the extreme weather events and other natural disasters caused by climate change. But in Fiji, that participation goes much further.
When we were struck three months ago by Tropical Cyclone Winston, the business community swung into action to assist in the relief and rehabilitation effort, providing Fijians with all manner of assistance at a time of desperate need.
The Fiji Institution of Engineers sent teams of inspectors to assess the damage at the 229 schools that were struck by the 300 kilometre an hour winds. And its detailed evaluation of their needs has given us the precise information required to launch an “Adopt a School” program to get our children back into proper classrooms.
Our hardware companies are partnering with the Government in a national “Help for Homes” program to give Fijians the means to fix or rebuild the 40,000 homes that were damaged or destroyed. And at every turn, the private sector was at the forefront of the relief effort, whether through donations in cash or in kind or assisting the authorities with logistics.
On behalf of every Fijian and before the world, I want to thank those businesses for their wonderful contribution to helping Fiji get back on its feet.
Now, Fijian businesses have formally joined forces with the Government, the UN and civil society organisations to establish the Fiji Business Disaster Resilience Council. Its role is to assistant businesses affected by disaster and strengthen private sector engagement in our collective response. We are especially looking to the private sector to introduce new technologies to deal with climate change.
The Council is being showcased at this Summit as part of the Connecting Business Initiative. And I commend it to you all as a model that can be replicated in any country prone to natural disasters.