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Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and a very good morning.

It’s my great pleasure to join you all here this morning to officially open the new Nakasi Health Centre, a 6.7 million-dollar facility that will raise the bar for medical care in Fiji.

Years in the making, the Nakasi Health Centre will change the face of healthcare for tens of thousands of Fijians who will utilise its services. The many neighbouring communities who visit the facility –– extending from Narere and Makoi to Lokia, Davuilevu, Wainbuku and Waila –– will make this an investment that will pay off for decades to come.

The quality of this facility, and the many services and treatments that it will offer, will continue to fuel Nakasi’s status as a bustling hive of activity; the manufacturing jobs and retail that the area currently offers will be joined by excellent medical care as a reason that Fijians from Valelevu, Nadera and Nausori are attracted to this growing hub of the Suva suburbs.

New developments –– from schools to roads to health centres and even an expanded airport –– the Suva-Nausori corridor is quickly proving to be an epicentre for Fiji’s rapid transformation into a dynamic and modern economy. Each time that I drive through this area on my way home from the airport, the hum of construction seems to grow louder. And it seems like every other week that I am coming back to open a new development or break ground on another multi-million-dollar project –– a feeling that never gets old when I’m surrounded by you, the many faces of those whose lives will be directly impacted by the many fruits of our flourishing economy.

And few developments truly show how far we have come as a nation over the past decade as much as this one. Staffed by two doctors and over eight nurses, the Nakasi Health Centre will offer many advanced treatments, and house state-of-the-art equipment for treating a variety of ailments and conditions. It’s the latest landmark project in my Government’s huge capital injection into our medical sector; all across Fiji, from Beqa to Cuvu to Sigatoka, from Lautoka to Vatukarasa to Nagatagata to Makoi, we are opening new and upgraded health facilities to offer more services to more Fijians closer to home. And at CWM, a maternity ward expansion and upgrade at a cost of 11-million dollars, that’s currently under construction, will bring women’s health in Fiji up to international standards, expanding the number of beds to 200. It will be equipped with anything that a mother would expect in Australia or New Zealand. And we aren’t stopping there –– we have grand plans for new hospitals in Ba, Rotuma and Navosa, at a further total investment of over 70 million dollars, which will continue our ongoing transformation of Fiji’s healthcare landscape.

And we’re not just investing in the buildings themselves; my Government’s approach to overhauling medical care in Fiji is holistic, and it starts with making sure we have the necessary staff and equipment to fill these walls with the tools that Fijians need to live longer, healthier lives.

That mission is what is constantly driving us to find new and innovative solutions: thanks to the latest National Budget, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is now undertaking a wide-reaching investment in our human capital that rewards those Fijians who are the lifeblood of our healthcare sector. The number of doctors and nurses in Fiji has doubled under my Government, but we aren’t stopping there. We are actively recruiting more doctors, providing our community health workers with a 200-dollar monthly allowance, and we have increased the salaries of our existing essential healthcare workers by significant margins. In fact, thanks to our ongoing civil service reforms, doctors and nurses have already received huge pay rises of 80 per cent or more, depending on their grades and positions.

And we are looking outside the box to continue this momentum and provide the best and most affordable care to Fijian families. We are currently pursuing public-private partnerships to find international partners to upgrade the Ba and Lautoka Hospitals to world-class facilities that provide new and complicated treatments like open heart surgeries –– which Fijians used to have to travel abroad to receive –– right here in Fiji, all at no additional cost to patients. And we’ve expanded the Free Medicine Scheme to families earning below 20,000 dollars per year, while also subsidising the cost of dialysis treatments to make even the most expensive treatments accessible to every Fijian. All said, Fiji is in the midst of a healthcare revolution, and every man, woman, and child in our great nation stands to benefit.

My fellow Fijians, when it comes to the construction of a facility like the Nakasi Health Centre, far more goes into a project like this than meets the eye. The many stages of careful planning involved before the building’s foundation is even poured are often more painstaking and complicated than the physical construction itself. After we determine that a government project is needed, a suitable plot of land must be identified, purchased and surveyed, the best contractor for the job is sought out, and extensive engineering and design work takes place. Once the site is cleared and the land is prepared, the soil needs to be given enough time to fully settle before any of the hard labour can begin. If any of these critical steps are skipped over or rushed, the foundation may crack or the walls may sink. It’s like the famous story of the wise and the foolish builders; the man who built his home on sand watched helplessly as it was destroyed by wind and water, but the man who built his home on rock enjoyed the stability of a foundation that was made to endure any storm.

In this sense, the Fijian economy is no different than the story of the wise and foolish builder. Right now, we are seeing our economy thrive more than at any point in our nation’s history; unemployment is at a record low, and as we near a decade of unbroken growth, the signs of progress are undeniable, and they are everywhere. Schools, hospitals, and private sector developments are popping up at a remarkable rate. This streak of success isn’t by chance or coincidence; it’s the result of very careful planning that has been spearheaded by my Government’s visionary leadership. We never go at it alone, however –– we know that no government has all the solutions, and we want to build our economy on a rock-solid foundation that will last for generations to come. That’s why with every decision we make, we go through extensive consultations, taking the perspectives of all stakeholders into account.

In the weeks before an election, it’s no surprise to see desperate politicians making irresponsible and reckless promises in an attempt to confuse the public and earn a few votes, all without considering the economic consequences of their actions. They claim that the minimum wage can be suddenly and drastically raised, despite business owners telling us that such a move would result in the death of entire industries, and the loss of many thousands of jobs overnight.

My fellow Fijians, putting policies like this into place without consulting stakeholders, or taking the advice of experts who conduct thorough studies like my Government has done, would be like building the Nakasi Health Centre without blueprints on soil that hasn’t settled. Let me be clear when I say that their foolish and haphazard approach to running the Fijian economy would end up like the house built on sand –– it would be a disaster, and it would result in the destruction of everything we have worked so hard to build. All of our accomplishments, earned through responsible growth and prudent economic management, risks being washed away at the hands of foolish grandstanders. Unlike them, my Government will never make promises that it cannot keep; the stakes are far too high to mislead the Fijian people about what is possible just for the sake of winning votes.

The truth is this: As the economy continues to grow under our leadership, the minimum wage will continue to rise –– at a rate that is sustainable, thoughtfully-considered, and not pulled from thin air and artificially imposed by an overreaching government. While the Opposition will try to falsely take credit for any rises that happen, they are quick to ignore that this has been our plan all along. As the Minister for Economy announced in this year’s Budget, the national minimum wage is being reviewed, and will continue to be reviewed on a regular basis so that all wages –– including those across the 10 different sectors where wages are set above the minimum wage –– will be adjusted in a way that achieves both fairness for working Fijians and stability for the economy as a whole.

Because while previous Prime Ministers have driven the Fijian economy into the ground, my Government has proven that we know the formula for economic prosperity –– prosperity that has resulted in new health centres, expanded medical care, and universal primary and secondary education. Prosperity that resulted in unprecedented tertiary loans and scholarships, upgraded airports and roads, free-to-air television, and sustainable jobs in new and exciting industries. Prosperity that has resulted in Fiji entering into a new era of development –– one that, on our current path, will stand strong on a foundation of rock for many generations to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride that I now officially open Fiji’s latest development, and the latest delivered promise of my Government –– the Nakasi Health Centre. I look forward to opening many more like it in the years ahead.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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