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Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

The power of affordable and reliable electricity is undeniable. It ranks among the most critical pillars for the development of any country, anywhere in the world. Fiji is no different, and every Fijian deserves to share in the life-changing benefits that electricity provides.

Access to reliable electricity is the difference between a roadside business shuttering its doors at sunset, or remaining open to provide income for its owner. It is the difference between a student having to close his books for the evening, or being able to read and study into the night. It is the difference between a dangerous and unnerving walk in darkness, or a safe, and well-lit journey home. And, very importantly, it’s the difference between missing out on our Flying Fijians play, or being part of the action over TV, radio or social media, to experience victories such as our dominating performance at the Hamilton Sevens this past weekend.

But seriously, the bottom line is that access to electricity spans the difference between a dark and uncertain tomorrow, and a bright, prosperous and promising future.

As Prime Minister, I’ve had the privilege of overseeing a massive expansion of access to electric power across towns, communities, and on to some of our most remote maritime and deep rural pockets of Fiji. Our most recent census shows we’ve expanded access to electricity to 96 per cent of our population; a remarkable achievement. And nearly 80 per cent of customers are now connected to our national grid. That number grows today.

I’m proud to officially open the Navala Grid Extension this morning. This extension will directly power the lives of over 600 of your people, the Navala Catholic School, and your two churches as well.

The completion of this extension is the end result of thoughtful planning, long-term thinking and a steady flow of investment from my Government. Over the past five years, we’ve given funding of 224 million dollars towards the energy sector. That’s an historic amount of funding, and 70 cents of every dollar spent has gone directly to funding rural electrification. Over 25,000 Fijian households have felt the benefits of that development. But we’re not resting on our laurels; in our most recent budget, we’ve set aside an additional 60 million dollars to add another 6,623 households to that number, including the 125 households of your community.

My Government has shouldered the entire 650,000-dollar cost of this development, sparing your community from any financial contribution, as we’ve done away with that old practice for the benefit of our people. On top of that, for families who earn less than 30,000 dollars a year, we’ll fund 50 per cent of your monthly electricity bill, up to 100 kiloWatt hours. To enjoy that benefit, you’ll simply need to register with Energy Fiji Limited, our national energy provider. Because it’s not enough to simply provide you with access to power, I believe we must provide power you can afford.

Speaking of which, I’d like to thank the Chairman, the Board, management and staff of EFL for making this project possible, and for all of their good work expanding and improving our national grid, which has brought reliable electric power to a historic number of Fijians. EFL is on the frontlines of empowering our people by powering our nation. When cyclones have struck our country, EFL linemen and women have put in the countless hours it’s taken to get power quickly back online in affected communities. And EFL is spearheading one of our most important commitments to securing a sustainable future, by lighting the way forward in our nationwide shift to generate 100 per cent of our energy from clean, renewable sources by 2036.

Friends, there’s only one way that such historic funding towards our infrastructure and services is possible, and that is through our growing economy. When our economy grows, the national cake we all share grows with it; and we all get a bigger slice. Under my leadership, our economy has charted a record nine unbroken years of economic growth, and we’re headed into our tenth straight year in 2019. That means we’re headed for even greater prosperity and even greater opportunity for every Fijian.

I know that previously many in your community were relying on diesel generators. I know how stressful that can be. Generators alone can’t shoulder the energy demands of an entire community, they are too unreliable, too unwieldy and they can end up being very expensive. Being on the grid brings an entirely new level of reliability, affordability, and it brings cleaner power that is much less harmful to our natural environment and the air we breathe.

Today, you’re taking a great step forward for your community. One that will power the lives of your people for generations; bringing a higher standard of living for your people today, and new expectations for your young people for what their community can achieve. Your future is bright. And I assure you that my Government will be there to support your aspirations and dreams for that future with more development, more services and more opportunity for every family in your community.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications