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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Amalgamated Telecom Holdings makes a profit

Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Limited (ATH) has made a profit after tax of F$41.5 million for its financial year ended 31 March 2007 - an increase of 18.9% over the profit of F$34.9 million recorded for the preceding financial year.

ATH said the result was achieved despite lower prices imposed on the telecommunications industry by the Commerce Commission in October 2005. The Group was still able to come through that challenge through efficiency gains and astute marketing.

The Group says that it is well placed now to develop and get its business ready for the upcoming deregulation of the industry.

The ATH Group is made up of Telecom Fiji Limited, Vodafone Fiji Limited, Fiji Directories Limited, Connect Fiji Limited, Transtel Limited and Xceed Pasifika Limited.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Company to offer Voice over Internet Protocol services

Unwired Fiji, an Internet Services Provider operating in Suva, Fiji, will be introducing Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) services from July this year. The new services will see international calls reduced by up to 90% as individuals make calls over the Internet.

The company will first introduce the service over the Suva and greater Suva areas. The new service should help cut business costs as businesses make use of the cheaper alternative form of making international calls.

Unwired Fiji uses wireless internet services and has been operating in the Suva and Lami areas since 2005.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Westpac reduces interest rates further

Westpac Banking Corporation has reduced its lending rates further by 0.25% from today, Monday, 25 June 2007. The total reductions in interest rates over the month was 0.5%. The bank had made the related announcement earlier this month and which we posted on this blog on 3 June 2007.

The bank had earlier stated that the reduction of its business and consumer base lending rates indicates the improved liquidity position that the bank has experienced since the recent reduction of statutory reserve deposits requirements (i.e. deposits required to be held with the Reserve Bank of Fiji) in May.

The bank said that it would continue to monitor liquidity in the banking system and will review its interest rates accordingly.

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Westpac Interest Rates (Updated 25.6.07)

Schedule of interest rates released by Westpac Fiji are as follows :
  • Business Lending Rate - 11.49%;
  • Residential Property Loan : Variable Rate - 11.25%, 1 year Fixed Rate - 9.75%;
  • Investment Loan : Variable Rate - 11.25%, , 1 year Fixed Rate - 9.75%;
  • Retail Term Deposits : 6 to less than 9 months - 3.75%, 9 months to less than 1 year - 3.75%, 1 year to less than 1.5 Years - 3.75%, 1.5 years to less than 2 Years - 3.75%, 2 years to less than 3 Years - 3.75%.
Interest rates are on a per annum basis and may be varied by the bank without prior notice.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Statements by Government at the Fiji Tourism Forum 2007

Read below the positions given by the Interim Minister of Finance and the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji at the Fiji Tourism Forum 2007 currently being held at the Shangri-La Resort, Sigatoka, Fiji. The articles are taken from the Fiji Times, Saturday, 23 June 2007.



"Find your own funds, says Chaudhry, Saturday, June 23, 2007

The tourism industry must be responsible for finding its own marketing funds, says interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

"How long will you expect the Government to carry the marketing burden," he asked tourism stakeholders at the industry's forum.

"The industry should stand on its own feet."

"Let Government not be one of the key drivers of your marketing efforts.

"You are a private sector with many stakeholders."

He was responding to questions on what actions the Finance Ministry could take to offset the loss of income caused by the dramatic drop in tourism revenue.

Mr Chaudhry said while the interim Government would help the industry, it had to take the responsibility for doing its own marketing.

He also urged the expansion of flying destinations.

He said he had never heard of the tourism industry criticising the national airline for not flying to destinations such as London or South East Asian countries.

"It is time to get out of the box. If we can not get the aircraft to fly to other destinations, the least we could do is to negotiate code sharing arrangements," Mr Chaudhry said.

His comments followed the tourism industry's request last month for an extra $3.8million for marketing funds.

The FVB and Tourism Action Group were given $10million for marketing in the revised 2007 Budget but the interim administration had promised $15million for the bureau and $3.8m for TAG.

In March, the industry's request for another $9million was rejected by the interim administration.

Interim Tourism Minister Bernadette Rounds-Ganilau said the industry was waiting for the interim Government's response on the submission for $3.8million."



"Fiji in crisis: RBF, Saturday, June 23, 2007

Fiji is in a state of crisis, says the Reserve Bank, and its exports are expected to remain flat in most industries.

The analysis was presented by RBF deputy governor Sada Reddy at a panel discussion at the Fiji Tourism Forum 2007 at the Shangri-la Fijian Resort in Sigatoka.

He said the bank's prediction of negative economic growth remained because the economy was not performing.

The forecast of negative growth of two and half per cent was expected to remain, he said.
"Using figures available to us in January and February, we forecast a growth of negative 2.5 per cent for this year," he said.

"These figures are currently under review. But information available to us says this is expected to remain."

Mr Reddy said with only one or two export industries performing well, exports were expected to remain flat.

"We cannot see any of the other sectors growing in terms of exports. Except for one or two industries such as Fiji Water, all the others are flat," he said.

He said imports continued to grow but following recent policies put in place by the central bank, there was a decrease in imports of five per cent.

Still, imports were strong because exports were not doing well, Mr Reddy said.

He said Fiji had a trade deficit of $2billion and tourism and remittances had been bridging the gap.

Mr Reddy said the central bank could not see potential in any other sector apart from tourism. He said recent policies put in place by the central bank were to protect foreign reserves.

He said submissions had been made by industries and commercial banks on the restriction of policies but these industries needed to understand the situation.

"If we do not handle this crisis, I call it a crisis, because we are in a situation where we had to put in policies," he said.

He said there was a need for the sectors to understand the policies put in place and work together, to avoid harsher policies. He said the restrictions were placed after much thinking.

Mr Reddy said tourism was the only industry which had huge immediate and potential benefits in terms of helping in this period of economic difficulty.

Last year, tourism brought in $742million in gross foreign receipts and visitor arrivals were 545,000.

Mr Reddy said foreign receipts were forecast at $670million this year with around 500,000 visitor arrivals.

He said occupancy rates were still very low and urgent measures should be placed to improve occupancy."

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EU ready to help with Fiji recovery

The European Union has said that it is ready to help with Fiji's recovery and the road back to democratic government through the provision of technical and financial assistance.

This position was made in a statement released by the EU which said that it was closely monitoring the situation and developments in Fiji and that it had welcomed the progress being made.

The EU said it welcomed progress made in dialogue with the Pacific Islands Forum and the completion of work of independent experts. It said that it was also happy with the lifting of the public emergency regulation on 31 May 2007.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Another potential export from Fiji

Another newly identified potential export from Fiji is the "balabala", the dried black trunk of a tree fern that grows in the wild in Fiji. Balabala is a newly discovered niche export product which is making it big in the United States of America.

Read more in the article below from the Fiji Times, Tuesday, 19 June 2007.


"Cama cashes in on balabala, Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Think orchids and immediately you’d picture the balabala the dried black trunk of the tree fern that is made up of thin black stick-like things that are easily broken off.

Now why the link with the orchids?

Well, as most people probably know, the balabala is the plant on which orchids flourish best.

At Wainadoi, past Veisari, on the Queens Highway outside Suva, there’s a little shed from where Cama Vakaloloma sells balabala.

Well and good you may think but what Cama has done with these plants is cut them into shapes like the Fijian bure in a bid to make them bit more presentable.

He is in his 50s and hails from Moce, in Lau.

He worked 13 years for Leylands, in Naboro, before he succumbing to ill-health, which ended his employment there. Cama said he almost lost his life and during his recovery, he was confined to home.

He said the forest area behind his home had wild balabala galore so he decided to cut and sell them by the roadside.

It is a decision he never regretted as he can make up to $80 on a day.

But the best part about it all is that he didn’t even have to worry about growing and constantly nurturing the tree ferns, which thrive in damp areas.

Easy money that’s what he calls it.

And, it was a like a blessing in disguise because he couldn’t really do heavy or active work.

He said at first he started by selling the balabala in its natural shape before deciding to get creative and carve shapes out of it.

At first he would cut them into smaller cylindrical shapes but after a while, he started by cutting out designs on them using his cane knife.

Then he decided to carve bure and other shapes.

That creative decision brought its own rewards from one plant, he can cut and carve two or three items.

Cama says he started selling the balabala plants for $3 but that has since risen to $8-$9, depending on the size of the plant.

He laughed and said he decided to make it cheap because the plant grew naturally in abundance.

Most balabala buyers are florists or hoteliers.

As such, Cama says he is never short of buyers and makes quite a killing at the end of the day.

He said the balabala was rather funny because once you cut it down, it won’t grow there again.

And he was equally puzzled on how the balabala regenerated because it didn’t appear to have seeds.

Cama said at one time, a person bought all the uncut (and uncarved) plants that he had been selling –– so that in a space of a few minutes, he was $84 richer.

Yesterday, Cama was helped by his nephew, Vitale Varo, who hails from Navunikabi, in Namosi.

Vitale says the balabala plants are easy to get because they are light and were there for the taking.

He said he was only visiting his aunt and uncle and learnt about carving balabala from watching his uncle.

One balabala he had carved was in the shape of a burekalou and you can’t help but think of the burekalou at the Arts Village in Pacific Harbour when you see this particular balabala.

He says the road leads right to the forest and all that was needed to fetch the balabala was a cane knife and a sturdy wheelbarrow to transport it back home. He said they were never short of buyers and at night, they left the balabala in their stall. But no one has ever stolen the plants even though the stall is unattended at night.

And, just like his uncle Cama, he says carving shapes out of balabala doesn’t take that long to complete as his prized burekalou carving took him just a little more than an hour to complete.

Now don’t hesitate to stop by their stall, which is on the slope just before you reach Wainadoi Village (if you’re heading towards Navua and beyond), if you’re one for a touch of uniqueness in plants. "

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Colonial National Bank reduces interest rates further

The Colonial National Bank will reduce its interest rates for home loans and business banking by another 0.5% from 22 July 2007. This follows a 0.5% reduction that was put in place from 19 June 2007.

The further reduction will see the bank's 1 year fixed rate for personal and investment home loans fall from 10.15% to 9.65% with the variable rate falling from 12% to 11.5%.

The reduction in interest rates follow continued improvement in banks' liquidity positions over recent months following a reduction in the deposit requirements that banks need to hold at the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Business banking interest rate will fall from 11.7% to 11.25%.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Colonial National Bank reduced interest rates take effect

Colonial National Bank's reductions in interest rates which were posted on this blog on 10 May 2007 has taken effect from 19 June 2007 as advertised.

The reductions sees the bank reducing lending rates for home loans and business banking by 0.25% with the bank's variable rate on residential home loans falling from 12.25% to 12% and its 1 year fixed rate on residential and investment property loans falling from 10.40% to 10.15%.

The bank's Business Banking Base Rate falls from 11.95% to 11.70%.

For more information, pls visit Colonial National Bank's website through links at the right hand side of this blog.

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Colonial National Bank Interest Rates (Updated 20.6.07)

Schedule of interest rates released by Colonial National Bank are as follows :
  • Business Banking Base Rate - 11.70%;
  • Residential Property Loan : Variable Rate - 12.00%, 1 Year Fixed Rate - 10.15%;
  • Investment Loan : Variable Rate - 12.00%, 1 Year Fixed Rate - 10.15%;
  • Retail Term Deposits : 9 months - 4.50%, 1 year - 4.50%, 1.5 Years - 4.50%, 2 Years - 4.50%, 3 Years - 4.50%.
Interest rates are on a per annum basis and may be varied by the bank without prior notice.

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Proposals for Tariff Reductions or Industry Protection

The Fiji Government is currently engaged in negotiations with the European Union for an Economic Partnership Agreement in line with the Pacific Islands Forum mandate.

One of the features of the EPA is Trade in Goods Agreement that relates to access of products traded with the EU.

To assist government in preparing a negotiating offer to the EU, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Investment and Communications is inviting written submissions from government ministries/departments, private sector and civil society on their proposal to identify products to protect or liberalise products under EPA.

Pls contact Ms Mereseini Waibuta at the Ministry of Commerce on e-mail mwaibuta@govnet.gov.fj or call telephone (679) 3305411 for more information and the required outline of submissions.

Submissions close at 3pm, Friday, 29 June 2007.

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Shangri-La's Fijian Resort opens new events centre

The Shangri-La Fijian Resort located at Sigatoka, Fiji, has opened its new events centre. The events centre can cater for up to 650 people for meetings and functions.

The centre, named The Makutu Hall, after local chief, Ratu Sakiusa Makutu, offers a new alternative for international events coming to Fiji as well as local Fijian functions and events.

The centre includes the Ratu Makutu Hall and Executive bure, Davui Hall and Secretariat, the fully air-conditioned 810 square metre pavilion and 1,916 square metres of outdoor function space.

The design of the Ratu Makutu Hall is based on traditional Fijian architecture, featuring high ceilings, spacious function areas and overlooks a golf course and lawn.

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FNPF investment at Natadola safe

The Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) has said that its investment at Natadola is safe. The comment was made after the cancellation of the foreign investment registration certificate of Natadola Land Holdings by the Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau (FTIB).

The FNPF said that the cancellation of the certificate means that Natadola Land Holdings cannot engage in "development and management of integrated resorts".

The Chairman of the FNPF Board, Peceli Vocea, said that the Fund has had informal discussions on the way forward in terms of replacing Natadola Land Holdings and made the assurance that the cancellation will not impede the completion of the project at Natadola.

FNPF Investments Limited, a subsidiary of FNPF, holds 51% shareholding in Natadola Land Holdings with the remaining 49% owned by Hotels Property Pacific Limited (HPPL) of which APRIL (Hong Kong) is a major shareholder.

APRIL was project manager for the Natadola project before being removed recently.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More sanctions from NZ on Fiji?

New Zealand is deciding on what further sanctions it will impose on Fiji in light of the removal of its High Commissioner to Fiji by the Interim Government last week. Australia has also suggested that it may send a peacekeeping mission to Fiji "if the situation becomes unstable" which has drawn a response from Fiji's Interim Prime Minister.

An economist has said that further sanctions or negative travel advisories will have very serious implications on Fiji.

Read more on the articles from the Fiji Times and Fiji Sun, Tuesday, 19 June 2007, below.



"NZ vows harsh bans, Fiji Times, Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday vowed that within a week it would decide what "considerable" sanctions it would further take against Fiji.

According to The Stuff, Ms Clark told reporters that Cabinet yesterday talked about the response to the expulsion of its High Commissioner Michael Green, who is expected to leave the country this morning.

Reports that Mr Green was not given a June 18 deadline to leave the country could not be substantiated.

"There are some other things that can be done," she said.

"What Fiji's done is a serious and significant act. Our response must be serious and significant and we are not going to be rushed into that."

She urged New Zealanders to reconsider before taking up the cheap holidays that Fiji had to offer.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will co-ordinate talks with officials from departments, including defence, police, immigration and NZAID about what further action could be taken," she said.

"We've asked them to do a very thorough review of the relationship and what else might be done.

"I must stress it is not business as usual. Fiji's provocative act makes it absolutely clear that there should not be business as usual.

"I think this lashing out has come because of the very severe pressure the regime has been put under."

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has accused Mr Green of interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs a charge New Zealand rejects. Commodore Bainimarama has refused to disclose details of the alleged offence.

In his last statement on the issue, he said Mr Green had been "in our face" since the military takeover on December 5, 2006.

New Zealand condemned the coup and imposed sanctions which included suspending aid, banning sporting contacts and visits from government members and other measures.
Since then Fiji has been excluded from the Pacific seasonal employment scheme, which it had lobbied for intensely.

"We will be going back again to the UN pointing out the great irony of Fiji personnel being deployed to troubled countries in an endeavour to bring peace and security when their own is exactly such a country which is troubled and doesn't enjoy peace and security at this time," said Ms Clark.

Fiji has been excluded from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands since the coup.
Meanwhile, the Australian Army says there is a possibility of its troops being sent on a peacekeeping mission here if the situation becomes unstable.

According to a Radio Australia report yesterday, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy said the recent coup in Fiji had the potential to incite tensions that could leave the country vulnerable to instability.

"I think we would need to have prudent plans and just see whether we need to do that. I would rather not go to any place at all," he said.

"But I think we do need to make sure we have plans and we have the capabilities to support governments in those locations should they ask for support."

Army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said it was the first he had heard of the report. He preferred to comment only after he had read the report.

Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti had said the interim Government believed Mr Green and former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji Jennifer Rawson were allegedly part of "the team" that plotted to remove the military chief during the lead-up to his December 5 coup.

Talking to New Zealand's national radio station, Colonel Driti said there was no direct evidence of either diplomat being involved.

"It doesn't have to be something you've got to have evidence for. It is just a matter of gauging what took place and reading between the lines," he told New Zealand's National Radio. Colonel Driti could not be reached for a comment yesterday.

Major Leweni said he was not aware of the issue and Colonel Driti would be the best person to explain further on the issue.

The report said the Australian government did not immediately respond to the allegation, but Ms Clark said the charges against Mr Green were without foundation.

"That's complete nonsense. A complete fiction. This is a disgraceful move and has no foundation whatsoever," Ms Clark said.

Ms Clark said New Zealand would step up its advocacy at the United Nations to stop Fiji troops being used as UN peacekeepers.

She said she had suspended talks under way with Fiji about sea boundaries."



"More sanctions will be disastrous: Economist, Fiji Times, Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Any further sanctions or travel advisories will be disastrous for Fiji, says an academic.
University of the South Pacific economist Professor Biman Prasad said tourism numbers were already down and that would have a terrible impact.

Tourism numbers from Australia and New Zealand would be affected as Australia had already indicated it would support actions by New Zealand, he said.

"I think the tourism industry will face even bigger challenges now to bring back tourists from New Zealand and Australia," said Dr Prasad.

Another economist, Doctor Satish Chand said the economic fallout from the expulsion of Michael Green could be significant.

He said the decision could have ramifications on the growth of international merchandise trade and tourist arrivals, and the acceptance of the interim regime by the international community.

The challenge for Fiji was in containing the fallout, Dr Chand said.

"Our diplomats need to work harder in improving relations with Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America.

"Fortunately, the European Union has refrained from commenting and thus could act as a broker between Fiji and its near neighbors," said Dr Chand.

"We must acknowledge that the relationship between Fiji and New Zealand runs a lot deeper than between the two administrations.

"It is time for the leaders to take a cold shower and rethink the effects of their actions on the population at large.

"Tourism is the only hope for a quick rebound in the economy.

"We simply cannot afford to see this industry wither any more," Dr Chand said.
Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association president Dixon Seeto said any sanctions and other measures to hamper trade would affect the economy.

He said 60 per cent of visitors to Fiji were from Australia and New Zealand."




"No need for Australian peacekeepers, says PM, Fiji Sun, 6/19/2007 8:46:05 AM

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says there is no need for Australian troops to come to Fiji for peacekeeping operations.And he said the security situation in the country is stable.

“They can’t come here because they are not required here. The situation in Fiji today does not warrant outside forces to intervene,” said Cdre Bainimarama.

Australian military chief General Peter Leahy had told a regional media organisation yesterday that they had not ruled out the possibility of Australian troops being sent on peacekeeping operations to Fiji or Papua New Guinea.

Lt. General Leahy said they would need to have prudent plans and determine whether they needed to send peacekeeping operations troops to Fiji.

He said the recent coup in Fiji had the potential to incite tension that could leave the country vulnerable to instability.

“It is unfortunate for the Australian army chief to be drawing up plans for a non-existent situation. I don’t know what is the reason for this plan but maybe he wants to justify the intervention requested by Qarase (Laisenia) last year,” said Cdre Bainimarama.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard had confirmed that ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had sought military intervention from him in the lead up to last year’s takeover. “I got this request at the last minute from the Prime Minister (Qarase).

Now I understand his position and I have a lot of regard and respect for him,” Mr Howard had said.

He said he had then refused to send any troops to Fiji because he ‘did not want the horror of Australian and Fijian troops firing at each other in the streets of Suva’.

Mr Qarase who is being investigated for alleged treason maintains he did not seek military intervention from Australia or New Zealand."

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Renewable energy projects to be funded

The World Bank will fund renewable energy electricity supplies for rural communities in Fiji. The Bank has approved US$9.5 million to fund renewable energy electricity supplies for rural areas in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Marshall Islands.

Fiji will get around US$2 million of the fund for its projects.

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Telecommunications companies invest F$110 million

The telecommunications companies in Fiji, Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Limited (ATH) and Vodafone, will be investing a total of F$110 million on capital works in 2007.

Of that amount, ATH will be investing F$77 million to upgrade its telephone network to increase capacity and provide new services while Vodafone will spend F$33 million to upgrade its services in the rural areas.

Read more on the articles from the Fiji Times below.


"ATH invests $77million, Thursday, June 14, 2007

Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (ATH) intends to spend $77million in capital expenditure in the financial year ending March 31, 2008.

Group acting chief executive Tomasi Vakatora said this included $42.2m to be spent on upgrading and extending Telecom Fiji's national telephone network to increase capacity and accommodate new services, and improve internal processes.

"The planned capital expenditure of $77m is the largest investment by the ATH Group since its inauguration in late 1998," Mr Vakatora said.

About $33.1m has been allocated towards upgrading and extending Vodafone Fiji's cellular mobile telephone network.

"This is a clear sign of the group's commitment because it is in addition to $294.9m that has been spent on capital expenditure from the group's inauguration to the end of the last financial year ending March 31, 2007," he said.

Mr Vakatora earlier said the group's financial position remained sound and a good result was expected.

ATHs annual report is expected to be released by the end of June. ATH and its group of companies recorded an interim net after-tax profit of $21.3m for the half year ended September 30, 2006. "



"$33.1m for Vodafone upgrade, Friday, June 15, 2007

Vodafone is looking at investing $33.1million for the current financial year and upgrade its network concentrating more on rural areas.

Amalgamated Telecom Holdings acting chief executive Tomasi Vakatora said the company was looking forward to investing more on the infrastructure.

This was revealed at the commissioning of the Naigani island base station at Queen Victoria School in Tailevu last Saturday.

He said this would be an additional finance to the $148.4m on capital expenditure the company had invested on since it began operating in 1994.

The ATH group of which Vodafone Fiji is a very valuable member intends to spend a total of $76.8m in capital expenditure in the current financial year to March 31, 2008, Mr Vakatora said.

This amount includes the $33.1m commitment that I have just mentioned for Vodafone Fiji.
It will be in addition to $294.9m the ATH group has spent since its inauguration in late 1988, he said.

Mr Vakatora said this was a clear sign of the groups commitment to Fiji.

As Vodafone Fiji continues to widen coverage, it is also introducing additional services and reducing charges and there is still a lot more to come, he said. "

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Call made to promote Cottage Industries

A call has been made to promote the growth and development of cottage industries to help alleviate poverty. The call was made by the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) at the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress currently underway at The Fijian Resort, Sigatoka, Fiji.

FRIEND said that the growth of this industry will help absorb surplus labour force located in the rural and peri-urban areas.

Read more on the story from the article in the Fiji Times, of Saturday, 16 June 2007, appended below.


"Develop cottage industry: Kiran, Saturday, June 16, 2007

Growth and development of cottage industry could help to alleviate poverty, says the executive director and founder of Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND).

Sashi Kiran said the growth of this industry could also absorb labour force especially in rural and peri-urban centres.

She made this comments yesterday at the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress at the Shangri-La Fijian Resort in Sigatoka.

Cottage industry is a home-based or production centre-based industry using local resources and labour with or without external input to create a marketable product.

She said in Fiji the cottage industry was under developed.

"Take mats for example because of its importance in traditional ceremonies it has become a cottage industry," Ms Kiran said.

All development agencies and government arms need to support and ensure growth of these small industries, she said.

"We have the infrastructure for support we need planning, support and linkages and efficient services from agencies like the agro marketing," she said.

She said social empowerment processes were important for the growth of this industry.

Ms Kiran said some of the supported cottage industries were cut flower, honey, cards, handicraft, chutney, pickles and jams.

Ms Kiran said FRIEND conducts esteem building training, budgeting, saving options, Occupational Health and Safety and training for items produced in the community kitchen.

Ms Kiran said people in the cottage industry needed to think outside the box' and create new items and designs to meet the changing demands of the market.

She said some of the challenges included creating new craft designs out of the old to be able to sustain in the industry. "

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Economy and Investments fall

The President of the Fiji Institute of Accountants has said that the economy and investments were falling and that businesses were suffering. He made the comment at the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress currently underway at The Fijian Resort, Sigatoka, Fiji.

The sectors which had declined included tourism, agriculture, sugar and the business industry in general.

Read more from the article in the Fiji Times, Monday, 18 June 2007, appended below.



"Economy, investments on the decline: Patel, Monday, June 18, 2007

ALL business sectors in the country are underperforming, says Pradeep Patel, the president of the Fiji Institute of Accountants.

Mr Patel said the economy and investment activities were on the decline and businesses were suffering. "Such a situation will have a negative impact on employment and economic activities and thereby on tax revenue," he said.

Mr Patel made this statement at the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress at the weekend.

Some of the sectors that have declined are tourism, agriculture and sugar and the business community is also facing the economic downturn.

Mr Patel said given the prevailing political and economic climate, Fiji was going through a critical phase on the political front and the interim Government's commitment to return democratic rule was important. "It is important to achieve this to the earliest for political stability, promoting investment, retaining skilled resources and recovery of the economy," he said. Mr Patel said the interim Government's commitment to upholding the Constitution, respecting the independence of the judiciary and protecting of human rights must be totally up held.

He said the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority had a critical role to play and without comprising its position, it must provide necessary support to provide investment, promote economic activities and economic recovery and development.

"We need a vibrant private sector to drive our economy," Mr Patel said.

He said the interim Government should have a dialogue with the country's major trading partner, New Zealand.

He said Fiji should have taken a diplomatic approach to resolve any difference between the two countries.

"We should take a dialogue approach," said Mr Patel. "

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Native Lands Trust Board General Manager sacked

The Interim Minister for Fijians Affairs has sacked the Native Lands Trust Board (NLTB) General Manager, Kalivati Bakani, and IT manager, Mojito Mua, "without cause" yesterday, Thursday, 14 June 2007.

The two former managers have been given seven days to make written submissions to the NLTB.

Read press reports for more detailed stories.

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Exporting to New Zealand Seminar Cancelled

The seminar organised by the Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau, in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commission (PITIC) NZ, on exporting to New Zealand has been cancelled due to the political events yesterday, Thursday, 14 June 2007.

For more information or to register, pls contact Jogina Yang on e-mail jogina@ftib.org.fj or telephone (679) 3315988.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fresh Prawn Aquaculture Training

The Institute of Marine Resources of the Faculty of Islands and Oceans, University of the South Pacific, is holding a Freshwater Prawn Aquaculture Training Program on Wednesday, 20 June, to Friday, 22 June 2007 at the Lower Campus, University of the South Pacific, Laucala Bay, Suva. The topics to be covered include :
  • introduction to aquaculture;
  • prawn status and biology;
  • prawn diseases;
  • hatchery operations;
  • pond construction;
  • pond management economic modelling.

Fees are F$500.00 per person and will include training materials, field trips, teas and lunches.

A consultancy service will be available as a follow up for those interested. This includes : farm visits, feasibility study, and farm design.

Post-larval prawns can be purchased from the University.

For more information and registration, pls contact Alan Resture on telephone (679) 3232940 or e-mail resture_a@usp.ac.fj.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Seminar of Exporting to New Zealand

The Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau, in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commission (PITIC) NZ, is organising a seminar on exporting to New Zealand. The objective of the seminar will be to boost awareness and update stakeholders on the various requirements, challenges and procedures of exporting to New Zealand. The seminar will cover the following issues :
  • general packaging and labelling requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables;
  • NZ export requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables;
  • NZ export requirements guideline and how to use this guideline;
  • labelling requirement of fresh goods and processed goods;
  • requirements for exporting resource-based products to NZ; and
  • bar coding.

Exporters, potential exporters, freight forwarders and interested stakeholders are invited to attend the seminar which will take place on Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 8am to 5pm, at JJ's on the Park, Suva.

Registration fee is F$35.00 per person.

For more information or to register, pls contact Jogina Yang on e-mail jogina@ftib.org.fj or telephone (679) 3315988.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Another sign of confidence in Fiji : USA begins Embassy construction

In another sign of confidence in Fiji's future, the United States of America begins construction of a F$30 million complex to house its Embassy and staff in Fiji.

The ground breaking ceremony for the complex to be built at Tamavua, Suva, was held on Saturday, 9 June 2007. Present at the ground-breaking were the Suva Lord Mayor, the Fijian chief of Tamavua village and the US Ambassador to Fiji.

The location of the proposed US Embassy is just further up from where the Australian High Commission is located along Princes Road, Suva.

The US Government plans to complete construction of the complex in two years.

The US Ambassador said that the construction is a sign of the US' ongoing commitment to Fiji and the Pacific Islands region.

The complex will 4,600 square meters of office space and housing for American and local employees which will be a state-of-the-art facility built according to American and Fijian designs and set in a lush garden.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Fiji Electricity Authority makes a loss for 2006

The Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) has recorded a loss of F$12.3 million for 2006. The dismal performance was directly attributed to low water levels at its Monasavu Dam which led to more use of diesel fuel to produce electricity.

As a result, FEA's return on capital was -3.1% compared to Government's requirement of a 10% return from all government commercial enterprises.

The company said that the imposition of fuel surcharges on consumer enabled it to contain the loss at F$12.3 million. Without the fuel surcharges, FEA's net loss would have been F$25 million.

The high fuel prices also contributed to the high costs for the company.

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Government aims to bring down cost of doing business

The Interim Government aims to bring down the cost of doing business in Fiji. This was revealed by the Interim Minister for Finance as a measure, part of the Ministry's budget strategy.

The Minister said that it was one of the many issues raised during consultations with the private sector in Lautoka, Fiji.

Issues discussed included taxation, incentives, cost of capital, telecommunications and infrastructure.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Telecom offers reduced calls on Thursday evenings

Telecom Fiji Limited currently offers a promotion where people in Fiji can call a number overseas at a 40% discount off the rates. The countries that can be called, at the reduced rates, include Australia, NZ, UK, Canada and Hawaii.

The promotion is available from 7pm Thursdays to 7am Fridays and is available to all residential, business and prepaid customers including calls from landlines to Vodafones listed in those countries except for Australia and NZ.

Visit Telecom Fiji's website on this link, http://www.telecomfiji.com.fj/.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Our e-mail addresses

We have closed our e-mail account gilbertv@connect.com.fj. If you need to send us an e-mail, you can send it to either gilbertv2@connect.com.fj or gilbertv2@gmail.com. Our telephone contacts remain the same as (679) 3396427 or (679) 9921427.

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Vacancy : Ombudsman

The position of Ombudsman, Office of the Ombudsman, is being advertised in the Fiji dailies.

The duties of the incumbent include :

  • taking responsibility for the management of the Office of the Ombudsman including the control of staff and allocation of resources;
  • investing any act or omission that relates to a matter of administration by a department or prescribed authority in respect of which a complaint has been made to the Ombudsman;
  • decide whether or not reports need to be submitted to each house of Parliament;
  • submit an annual report to the President concerning the operations of the Ombudsman's Office and provide a copy to each house of Parliament.

Qualifications required :

  • a legal qualification is desirable, but not essential;
  • appointee to have previous experience in handling disputes;
  • ability to give sound advice at a political level;
  • experience in negotiations;
  • ability to assess and resolve complex issues.

Salary Package :

  • salary will be in the range F$69,958.00 to F$91,462.00;
  • housing allowance of 12.5% of base salary;
  • official car with a driver;
  • business class tickets on overseas official travel plus 10% loading on per diems;
  • entertainment allowance of F$1,000.00 per annum;
  • telecommunications allowance of F$1,200.00 per annum.

Applicants should apply in writing and enclose their Curriculum Vitae and the names of two referees to : The Chairman, Constitutional Offices Commission, PO Box 2211, Government Buildings, Suva, Fiji.

Applications close at 4.30pm, Friday, 22 June 2007.

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ANZ follows Westpac's lead by reducing lending interest rates

ANZ Fiji, followed Westpac's lead, by announcing a reduction of all its lending interest rates by 0.5% effective from 1 July 2007.

The bank's business loan index rate, variable home loan and variable property investment loan rates will fall by 0.5%.

The company's General Manager Fiji said that the increase in interest rates in 2006 and early 2007 had a negative impact on businesses as they were at a time when businesses experienced a reduction in sales.

The reduction in interest rates follows a rise in bank liquidity positions over the past few months after the Reserve Bank of Fiji reduced its statutory reserve deposit requirements (i.e. deposits that banks are required to "lock in" and deposit with the Reserve Bank of Fiji).

Visit ANZ Fiji's website through the appropriate link at the right hand side of this blog.

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RB Patel Group registers a profit

The RB Patel Group Limited, a company listed on the South Pacific Stock Exchange in Suva, Fiji, recorded a profit after tax of F$3.4 million over its financial year ended 31 March 2007 - an increase of a little over 16% compared to the previous year.

Group revenue rose to F$71.7 million, an increase of around 4% compared to its 2006 financial year.

Given that it operates in the supermarket industry, the company said that this somehow protected it after the Reserve Bank of Fiji tightened monetary policy.

The company will continue to look for growth opportunities and open new stores.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How much is Government paying for office space?

The Fiji Government pays a substantial sum each year for renting commercial space to house its various Ministries and Departments. This year, the sum expected to be paid by Government in rent will be in the vicinity of F$19 million.

Perhaps a study should be done on whether there would be more long-term benefits for Government to construct more office space and compare it to how much it would pay out in rent in the long term.

Read more on how much Government pays in rent for its offices in an article on the Fiji Times, Wednesday, 6 June 2007, here.

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Fiji Television Unit and Audio Visual Commission to merge?

The Interim Government will soon be conducting a viability analysis of the possible merger of the Film and Television Unit and the Fiji Audio Visual Commission.

The review will ascertain whether merging the two organisations would be the preferred alternative to setting up a corporatised Film and TV unit.

Currently, the Film and Television Unit is part of the Ministry of Information. It prepares and airs television programs (on Fiji TV) that provides information on government policies, developments and events of national significance. The Unit was was established in the early 1940s.

The scoping study will review the roles and functions of the Fiji Audio Visual Commission, the Film and Television Unit and in-house production units of the ministry as well as review the budget of the unit and ministries to determine the cost of providing production services.

It will also identify new business opportunities and ascertain the level of government assistance that should be provided to any new body.

The study will also determine an organisational structure and key position descriptions for the new body.

Government will be commissioning independent consultants to carry out the scoping study.

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Asian Development Bank to continue with Fiji projects

The Asian Development Bank has said that it will continue with its projects in Fiji. The commitment by the President of the Asian Development Bank was made to a delegation from Fiji who visited the Bank in May 2007.

The Fiji delegation briefed the Bank on recent political events in Fiji including actions to be taken to take Fiji to democracy.

The Bank then said that it would continue with its existing projects in Fiji but would hold off any new projects until it made further assessments of the country.

The delegation also made presentations to potential investors and had meetings with asset and fund managers to provide an update on the Fiji economy, particularly for holders of Fiji's international bonds.

Investors have expressed their interest in providing finance for Fiji projects as well as marketing Fiji to a wide ranger of investors abroad.

Fund managers expressed their interest to manage external financing for Fiji projects.

The Fiji Government will now be pursuing those avenues to secure development financing for projects in Fiji.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Commercial rental rates in Suva to go down?

With the abundance of office and commercial space coming up over the next few months, and the downturn in demand for them (given the economic slowdown that Fiji faces), one would expect commercial rental rates in Suva to go down over the next few months.

One of the multi-storey buildings to be completed, Kadavu House, does not have its occupancy plans confirmed as yet, although there were commitments to have the Public Service Commission occupy the building.

With the Morris Hedstroms Tower and the Tappoo City complex coming up over the next few months to a year, there will be an oversupply of commercial and office space in the capital.

With the oversupply and inadequate demand, we should expect prices (commercial and office rental rates) to go down over the next few months.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Westpac to reduce lending rates further

Westpac will reduce its lending rates further in June by a total of 0.5%. The first of these to come into effect on 11 June 2007 will be a reduction of 0.25% while the second reduction of another 0.25% will take effect on 25 June 2007.

Westpac says that the reduction of its business and consumer base lending rates indicates the improved liquidity position that the bank has experienced since the recent reduction of statutory reserve deposits requirements (i.e. deposits required to be held with the Reserve Bank of Fiji) in May.

The bank said that it would continue to monitor liquidity in the banking system and will review its interest rates accordingly.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Yatu Lau Company raises F$2 million

Kontiki Capital has raised F$2 million for Lauan investment company, Yatu Lau Company Limited. The funds were raised through a private placement of 1.3 million Class B Yatu Lau shares at F$1.50 each with a syndicate of investors put together by Kontiki Capital.

The issue was managed by Kontiki Capital and underwritten by Kontiki Stockbroking.

The transaction followed a restructure of Yatu Lau's share capital to allow non-Lauan participation in the company.

A second phase of fund raising will involve a public offering to raise an between F$1 million F$1.5 million for the company.

Some of the company's directors are children of former President and Prime Minister of Fiji and Tui Nayau, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

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The Mid City Complex - a make over for some older parts of Suva

Given the current depressed state of the economy, some developers are pushing ahead with their developments in Suva. One of these new developments saw the opening in recent weeks of the new Mid City Complex at the corner of Cumming Street and Waimanu Road. Read the article in the Fiji Times, Saturday, 2 June 2007, on the new complex in the centre of Suva here. Other buildings coming up include the Morris Hedstroms/Carpenters Fiji complex (where the old MH used to be) and the Tappoos City Complex (running from in front of the old Metropole Hotel to where the current Tappoos building is).

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Friday, June 01, 2007

ANZ Interest Rates (Updated 1.6.07)

Schedule of interest rates released by ANZ Fiji are as follows :
  • Business Index Rate - 12.50%;
  • Residential Property Loan : Standard Variable Rate - 12.00%, 1 Year Fixed Rate - 9.75%;
  • Investment Loan : Standard Variable Rate - 12.00%, 1 Year Fixed Rate - 10.00%;
  • Personal Loans : Secured - 12.70%, Unsecured - 14.70%;
  • Small Loans : Unsecured - 19.00%;
  • Retail Term Deposits : 9 months to 1 year - 4.35%, 1 to 2 Years - 4.35%, 2 Years to 3 Years - 4.50%.
Interest rates are on a per annum basis and may be varied by ANZ without prior notice.

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Colonial National Bank Interest Rates (Updated 1.6.07)

Schedule of interest rates released by Colonial National Bank are as follows :
  • Business Banking Base Rate - 11.95%;
  • Residential Property Loan : Variable Rate - 12.25%, 1 Year Fixed Rate - 10.40%;
  • Investment Loan : Variable Rate - 12.25%, 1 Year Fixed Rate - 10.40%;
  • Retail Term Deposits : 9 months - 4.75%, 1 year - 5.00%, 1.5 Years - 4.00%, 2 Years - 4.50%, 3 Years - 4.50%.
Interest rates are on a per annum basis and may be varied by the bank without prior notice.

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New banking service - Westpac

Westpac Banking Corporation has introduced a new banking service for its customers. The service will see the bank's officers visiting customers on site to pick up and deliver international transactions. It is targeted at those customers that regularly make or receive payments from overseas.

The bank said that the service would provide convenience and flexibility for international banking transactions and save customers from carrying documents to and from the bank, waiting in queues and find parking when visiting a bank.

For more information, pls call Westpac on telephone (679) 132032.

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Westpac Interest Rates (Updated 31.5.07)

Schedule of interest rates released by Westpac Fiji are as follows :
  • Business Lending Rate - 11.99%;
  • Residential Property Loan : Variable Rate - 11.75%;
  • Investment Loan : Variable Rate - 11.75%;
  • Retail Term Deposits : 6 to less than 9 months - 4.25%, 9 months to less than 1 year - 4.25%, 1 year to less than 1.5 Years - 4.25%, 1.5 years to less than 2 Years - 4.25%, 2 years to less than 3 Years - 4.25%.
Interest rates are on a per annum basis and may be varied by the bank without prior notice.

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