Kubuna Tui Kaba Na Vunivalu;
Naisanokonoko Turaga na Ratu;
Rara Nakelo, Turaga na Tui Nakelo;
Turaga kei na Marama.

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
What a pleasure it is to be in Tailevu. After 13 Council Meetings across the country, it feels right to wrap up this journey in my home Province.   

I am not here in any political capacity.  I am here in my role as Prime Minister to share the story I have shared all year at every meeting I have opened. It is a story about the best years in Fiji’s history; the years in which we’ve transformed the country for the better, overcome the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced, and defined Fiji’s voice in the world like never before. It is a story we can and must keep writing by keeping to the course we’ve set together. 
Tailevu has been part of our national journey every step of the way, receiving its fair share of progress. Yes, Tailevu is my home Province. That has no bearing on why you have enjoyed such unprecedented levels of development. Every Province in Fiji has been developed under my Government equally because we serve all Fijians equally. And we must serve every Fijian to the best of our ability by listening to everyone, promising what is possible and delivering time and again.
Speaking of promises, next month is the one-year anniversary of one of the most important promises we ever made to the people, our border re-opening on 1st December.
That milestone was made possible through our preparation as a Government and with the co-operation of virtually every Fijian. We vaccinated our population. We removed restrictions and resumed our way of life, and we opened our border ahead of the region. Since we have returned over 100,000 people to their jobs and every Province is now feeling the benefits of our COVID economic come-back and the record-breaking 15.6 percent economic growth that we will achieve this year. I don’t say that as a boast ­­­–– that is our shared national victory. We should all be proud that our Tourism Industry is back operating at full gear alongside the rest of our economy. Our farms are growing more produce than ever, our forestry sector is breaking records, our fisheries are expanding, and new sectors, like business process outsourcing are beginning to thrive.

Some people say we should not rely on Tourism. These folks have no clue how to build a strong economy. The question facing the Fijian economy is not a simple one of tourism, or farming, or manufacturing, or forestry. A strong Fijian economy is built on tourism AND farming, AND manufacturing, AND forestry, AND financial services, AND telecommunications, AND business process outsourcing, AND other resource sectors, AND other cutting-edge industries. And under my Government, all these sectors have achieved record strength and our wider national economy has achieved record growth. 
And we have ensured the benefits are widely felt because we have listened to you and your needs. We have never been deaf to your pleas. In response to your development aspirations, from 2014 until 2021 my Government has invested more than $272 Million Dollars into Tailevu Province.
More than $79.4 Million Dollars was allocated for social pension programmes, poverty alleviation initiatives, and disability programmes to protect those who have needed protection most.
We have spent $31.5 Million Dollars in infrastructure development which includes the upgrade of the Waidalice Bridge, the Cautata-Waicoka Road, Kiuva-Kaba Road, Nadali Bypass, Kasavu Road Rehabilitation, Natila Road, Visa and Anijioki Road and Namata Village access road and crossings. We also recognize the need for improvements in our air services.  That is why $54 Million Dollars was specifically used for the renovation of the Nausori International Airport.  Though costly, our commitment is firm – we will do whatever is necessary to connect our communities to the best available services. We will bring the Government and its services to you, the people of Tailevu.

We invested over $32.9 Million Dollars to upgrade the rural water schemes and main extensions in Tailevu. Like the Namau Treatment Plant Project, Waivola Rural Water Scheme and Natadradave Rural Water Projects where adjacent villages and settlements are enjoying uninterrupted water supply.
$6.5 Million Dollars was spent in rural electrification projects through rural grid extension schemes. This ensured that Naivoco Village, Nalalau Settlement, Wainivesi Farm in Dawasamu and Naqiriqirilali Settlement have electricity 24/7. Reliable energy is no longer a luxury –– and we must keep it that way by mitigating the impacts of adverse weather. Through $2.5 Million Dollars in coastal protection works, drainage and irrigation, we have ensured that farmlands are protected. Farmers in Dravuni Village and parts of Tailevu South can now breathe a sigh of relief and plant, harvest and sell more produce in peace, without the risk of flooding.
We also invested more than $2 Million Dollars in agricultural developments. This enabled the commissioning of the Nayavu Agriculture Station in 2019 and the recent Nameka Agriculture Station. The facilities are at your doorstep so you no longer need to travel far to access basic agriculture services.
I believe the education revolution we initiated and have sustained will be remembered as Fiji’s greatest achievement of the past 50 years.  Education is free, textbooks are free, and we fund travel to school for low-income students. We have invested $61.3 Million Dollars in this Province on boarding grants, and boat and engine support.
I can go on all day and point out all we have invested in the Province. But the point is that Tailevu has benefited from this Government. To put it more plainly, Tailevu is now a better place to live. The standard of living is higher, and it’s getting better all the time.
The formula is simple: action speaks louder than words. That is my mantra –– and it is a promise that has remained firm every year of my service as your Prime Minister. 
But I did not come here simply to tell you what we have done. You deserve to know what we are doing –– you deserve to know “what is next”. 
Ladies and Gentlemen, the worst of the pandemic is behind us. But ahead lies defining choices to build a more resilient and sustainable economy. A future in which our communities can withstand economic and environmental shocks while sustaining growth. That requires a complex, co-operative, and cohesive national development strategy. We are paving that path together as a Government with our Provincial Councils.  To-date, we’ve been hard at work behind the scenes to ensure efficient administration of your Province. We audited the TAB and Provincial Council accounts for the first time since the late 1990s.

All of this will help ensure efficient administration of the Province’s resources in the future. We need to take an honest look at what we did right and what we did wrong in the past. That is the only way we will improve.
Now let me talk about a burning issue that you are no doubt hearing about from political parties – that is land. It will always come up because opposition parties know this is the only way to unsettle the iTaukei.  iTaukei land ownership is safe. No land has been taken under this Government because it is protected under the Fijian Constitution. In fact, iTaukei land has never been more secure and more useful to its owners than it is today. At present we are finding ways to increase its value and to ensure that all community members –– including women and young people – enjoy an equitable share of the benefits of land leasing.
Last month, I commissioned the $2.89 Million-Dollar Nasoqeloa Subdivision in Namata, Tailevu. This impressive piece of developed land not only benefits Halaiwalu Investments but overall increases land value in the surrounding areas, which means a higher return for all landowners. We’ve also waived premium payments from lease offers, making it easier for landowners to own leases and obtain credit from financial institutions to develop their lands.
Through the equal distribution of lease monies, everyone listed under a landowning unit in the Vola ni Kawa Bula receives equal shares of lease money. And because of our prudent investment strategies, there are several young iTaukei millionaires-in-waiting who will be able to access their funds when they turn 18.
And they receive everything, the principal and interest. Never mind what the politicians and critics say, because here is yet another truth: Because of our policies, there are young iTaukei who will receive an invaluable financial head-start in life. That is a victory for equality and empowerment.
Making our land available for development creates financial and economic prosperity for Tailevu and it makes the Fiji we love a stronger country by creating opportunities for housing and sustainable livelihoods. So, I urge landowners in this Province to partner with us as well and realize your land’s full cash-generating potential. If you are not going to use the land for productive use for yourself, I urge you to renew those leases for crop cultivation or even for residential purposes. And let me remind everyone that under our Constitution people must pay the market rate for all leases and all tenants must have security of lease –– a win-win-win situation for landowners, tenants, and the Fijian economy.

It is also imperative that we fill all vacant chiefly titles. Of the 878 chiefly and customary titles in Tailevu, only 348 are filled. That leaves 530 vacant. We need these titles filled – urgently. 
The global issues of inflation and the Russian war in Ukraine continue to affect us in the form of higher prices, which is why my Government announced and paid the $180 per-child payments for vulnerable families. The Ministry of Economy has paid a total of $67.4 Million Dollars to 374,251 Fijians through this inflation mitigation initiative.
We are keeping an eye on prices –– more support will come if needed. And, as of last month, the national minimum wage increased to $3.67 per hour. This will increase again to $4.00 per hour by January 2023.
I want to make a last point, my friends, and that is the Fiji I lead is the least corrupt our country has ever been. We have skyrocketed up the global rankings that asses how well countries fight corruption. We established FICAC – the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, which has successfully prosecuted 166 cases in Fiji since 2008. These include some serious charges, like larceny, embezzlement, bribery, and theft. Anyone who tells you we need to strip away corruption-fighting institutions, like FICAC, is seeking to corrupt the country and enrich themselves. We must keep Fiji safe from those who seek to turn our institutions and economy into their own personal piggy banks.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the mission to make Fiji better and stronger is never-ending. Today, I ask that we all commit to this mission. Our children are counting on it. The Vanua demands it. 
On this note, it is my pleasure to open the 2022 Tailevu Provincial Council Meeting.
I wish you all the best in your deliberations.
Vinaka Vakalevu.