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The Honourable Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands and Mineral Resources;
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
The Chairman, Board of Directors and CEO of Investment Fiji;
Sponsors of the 2017 Prime Minister’s International Business Awards;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to you.

What a remarkable last two weeks we’ve seen in Fiji.
For the very first time, our official national Fiji Day celebrations were held in the West in Nadi, where thousands of Fijians came out to commemorate our 47th Anniversary of Independence.

Earlier this week, Fiji welcomed hundreds of international delegates to Nadi, where the world saw the largest pre-COP meeting ever, putting us in the best possible position to make COP23 a momentous and historic occasion. And only two nights ago, celebratory fireworks lit up the skies as Fijians came together to celebrate Diwali. The momentum continues this evening at the beautiful Grand Pacific Hotel with the 2017 Prime Minister’s International Business Awards.

I wasn’t able to attend last year’s events due to my work abroad, so I’m glad I have the chance to be with all of you this year at tonight’s ceremony before I head off to Germany to take up the enormous responsibility of the COP23 Presidency.

I’ve spoken with many of you in the past, and my Government has worked together with many of the businesses represented here before, so you’re all well aware of my firm belief in the value of a thriving business and investment community in Fiji. Contributions from the private sector not only drive a nation’s economic growth, they also drive societal progress, and I’m proud that so many private sector partners in Fiji have been part of my Government’s work to build a more prosperous and more caring Fiji.

Tonight, we not only acknowledge the contribution of our exporters in nation building, but we also celebrate their success. And tonight, we give special and well-deserved recognition to those exporters who have done wonders in putting Fijian Made products and services in markets around the world.

We will honour those businesses that, like Fiji itself, have punched above their weight. We recognise those businesses that have been truly innovative, and that have produced a quality of product or service that has made our nation proud. We will honour those that dared to push the limits and those that have embraced sustainability and inclusivity in their businesses.

In fact, the theme for this year’s awards is “Achieving Sustainable Economic Growth,” reflecting Fiji’s push to not only build a vibrant economy, but to build one that raises the bar for responsibility and resilience.
My Government’s ambition is to create an economy that is not only viable in the medium and long term, but also environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.

Coming straight off the heels of our Pre-COP discussions in Nadi, I could not think of a better and more fitting theme for tonight than one of sustainability. During my address on the first day of Pre-COP, I spoke to hundreds of delegates from over 68 countries, telling them how we are working to transform Fiji’s economy for a more sustainable future—a future that will help Fijians improve their quality of life and adapt to the worsening effects of climate change.

I have many exciting developments to report from the past few days. New partnerships and grants are not only going to help Fiji adhere to our principled development strategy—they will help us lay the foundation for a truly sustainable future that can inspire other nations around the world to do the same.
With the help of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, we will soon bring clean power to many of our remote rural communities that are not part of our national electricity grid.

And with blended finance from the Asian Development Bank, the Green Climate Fund and my Government, we will pave the way for a more resilient water and waste management system to serve over 300,000 Fijians in the Suva-Nausori-Lami corridor.

Further, by creating our own Green Bond through our Ministry of Economy and the Reserve Bank with the assistance of the World Bank and IFC, Fiji will now be the only emerging economy in the World and only the third sovereign, after France and Poland, to raise such bonds. This will mean that funds raised through these bonds will be specifically utilized only for climate adaptation measures and to build resilience in our economy while reducing our carbon footprint.
As a Government, we are also taking ambitious independent action. My Government’s Green Growth Framework aspires to guide developments in Fiji to be both inclusive and sustainable. The Fiji 2020 Agriculture Sector Policy Agenda which is part of our National Development Plan, is guiding our vision of creating a sustainable commercial agriculture industry. And our Tourism Development Plan will pave the way for sustainable development in the largest foreign exchange earner—tourism—which, by no coincidence, is fueled by our reputation as a country with pristine environment. Making it even more critical that we protect it.

Tonight, I urge all of you to incorporate sustainability into your business plans. It is imperative that we realize the importance of a sustainable and green economy. For the future of Fiji’s economy and the future of our children, we must strike a balance between development and sustainability.

By adopting a sustainable business model, you will not only serve Fiji, and invest in our future, but you will also be helping your businesses to adopt innovation, new technology and be more prepared and resilient in an ever-changing global environment and more extreme climate. And by embracing a commitment to sustainability, you will help to build on the momentum that we are seeing out of our pre-COP. For as more nations, international investors, multi-lateral agencies, multilateral development banks and NGOs see the progress that we are making here in Fiji, the more they will want to become involved in the Fijian success story that we are building together.

The importance of exporters in any economy can never be emphasized enough. It is also through your hard work; the Fijian economy continues to thrive. You all have played a crucial role in turning the Fijian economy as one of the best performing economies in the Pacific, fueling eight straight years of economic growth.
It is predicted that this growth will continue if we stay on the current path of policy consistency, stability, modernity and inclusive growth.

Our economy is robust and vibrant. The unemployment rate sits at 5.5 percent — the lowest it’s been in 15 years. Our first quarter tourism earnings stood at more than 370 million dollars — an increase of more than 10 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2016 — setting us on a path to transform tourism into a 2.2-billion-dollar industry by 2021. And our foreign reserves currently stand at more than 2.4 billion dollars — the highest it’s ever been and an amount that is sufficient to cover 5.9 months of imports.

Today, I am proud to say that Fijian exporters have risen above all challenges, turned their weaknesses into their strengths, paved their way into new markets, and also contributed to raising our levels of foreign exchange. It is your hard work that also contributes to ordinary Fijians having a better standard of living.
Today, we have an economy that is more inclusive, sustainable, diversified, and resilient than ever before. As you strive to succeed, you lift up all of Fiji with you. For that, I thank you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while I am proud of what we have achieved so far, there is no room for complacency—a lesson that successful business-people know all too well. We have to work harder and stay focused on the current path to further enhance sustainability, viability and prosperity.

Neither the Government nor the private sector can move the nation forward alone. To continue our progress, we need a true Fijian spirit of collaboration. We need to work side by side, sharing ideas and inspiring each other. Together, we will transform Fiji into more than just a shining example for the Pacific—we will become a nation that every global citizen will look to as a champion on critical issues and an example of sustainable development.
I wish you all a wonderful evening.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications