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Sunday, August 19, 2007

India at 60

Here is an article about India at 60 years after Independence taken from Forbes.com. Some interesting lessons can be learnt from that country's success.


"India At 60, by Professor Amartya Sen
It is 60 years now since I, like many other schoolchildren, stayed up till midnight, bleary-eyed, to hear Jawaharlal Nehru, soon to be prime minister of India, give his famous speech on India's "tryst with destiny."

This was on the eve of India's independence from British rule on Aug. 15, 1947. India would not only be, we were told, a fully democratic and secular state but also a country that will fight for "the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity." It is interesting to ask how far along we have gone in 60 years in fulfilling that momentous resolve.

On the democratic front, India's success was immediate and came with astonishing speed. India became overnight the first poor country in the world to be a full-scale democracy. And there was--and is--success enough here. There was a short-lived hiccup in the 1970s when there was a brief attempt to change the system, but when the government sought endorsement in a general election for those changes, it was driven out of office by the voters.

There have been regular and orderly elections, and the ruling parties have vacated office when defeated in general elections, rather than calling in the army. India has also had other essential features of a democracy, in particular continued freedom and vigor of the media and independence of the judiciary, with the Supreme Court often disallowing decisions of those in governmental office on constitutional grounds.

So democracy has indeed flourished nicely in India, and that has been the case right from the time when India became independent after two centuries of authoritarian British colonial dominance. India's democratic success is sometimes seen only as a consequence of British rule, but that is comparatively recent history shared by a hundred or more other countries that also emerged from the empire, none of which has had quite the easy success that India has had with democracy.

In fact, as I have tried to argue elsewhere (in my book The Argumentative Indian, Piccador, 2005), India's long argumentative tradition and toleration of heterodoxy, going back thousands of years, has greatly helped in making democracy flourish with such ease. This would be remarkable enough for any poor country, but it was a much harder task in a land with a great many major languages, each with a long and proud history, and with a rich and old literature.

And there was, of course, the challenge of the multiplicity of religions in India, with nearly every religion well represented. Jews came to India in the first century; Christians in the fourth; Parsees immigrated as soon as persecution began in Persia in the late seventh century; and early Muslim traders started coming to the western coast of India from the eighth century, well before the later invasion of the north of India by Muslim conquerors in the late tenth century onwards.

Even though British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947 on religious lines, the vast majority of Muslims on the Indian side chose to stay on in India, and today India has nearly as many Muslims as Pakistan and many more Muslims than Bangladesh. India chose to have a solidly secular constitution, and it is as a secular democracy that India has flourished. Secularism has been threatened from time to time by actions of sectarian groups, but the massive support for secularism across India has asserted itself again and again, the last time in the Indian general elections in 2004. In the political field, India's success today is a firm vindication of what, 60 years ago, it breathlessly tried to achieve.

The story is very different on the economic side. The growth rate of the Indian economy remained stuck at its low traditional point of 3% a year for a very long time. The economic policies needed substantial reform. In the old days, some wise guys used to put forward the thesis that India's growth rate was low because of its democracy, which seemed to many of us rather ridiculous. But with continued low growth, that anti-democratic point of view gained some ground among high-octane commentators (never with the general public, though). When India changed its economic policies, the growth rate picked up as expected, without India becoming any less of a democracy to achieve this result.

The economic changes came amid much hesitation and huge resistance. To start with, India hastened slowly. The 1980s, which saw some moderate reforms, produced some quickening, with an economic growth rate of 5%, which may now seem sadly slow but was much faster than what had happened in the early decades of independence, not to mention a century of colonial semi-stagnation. But the economy was still full of problems connected with financial instability, trade imbalances and choking public administration. In general, what used to be called the "license Raj" made business initiatives extremely difficult and at the mercy of bureaucrats (large and small), thereby powerfully stifling enterprise while hugely nurturing corruption.

When Manmohan Singh came to office in the early 1990s as the newly appointed finance minister, in a government led by the Congress Party, he knew these problems well enough, as someone who had been strongly involved in government administration for a long time. (This was after his stint as a very successful university professor at Delhi University where I was privileged to have him as a colleague.) And Singh's response was sure-footed though cautious, given the complex politics of policy reorientation. While the going has been rough from time to time, the direction of policy change has been unmistakable from that point onwards, endorsed even by successor governments run by other political parties.

India is now getting used to its much higher rate of growth, first around 6% a year and now about 8%, occasionally touching 9%. It is also remarkable that India's main success has come not in traditional areas of exports but largely on newer industries, with a large component of high-tech, such as the information technology industry, which has rapidly grown to be a giant from a very modest beginning. Another area is that of pharmaceuticals. Even though in that field the Indian entry began with generic drugs (with a huge reduction--sometimes a cut of 80% or so in the price for many essential drugs, like AIDS medicines), it is now going much more into new research as well.

There is reason enough to celebrate many things happening in India right now. But there are failures as well, which need urgent attention. For example, there is still widespread undernourishment in general and child undernutrition in particular--at a shocking level. The failures include, quite notably, the astonishing neglect of elementary education in India, with a quarter of the population--and indeed half the women--still illiterate.

The average life expectancy in India is still low (below 64) and infant mortality very high (58 per 1,000 live births). It is certainly true that India has narrowed the shortfall behind China in these areas--that is, in life expectancy and infant mortality--but there is still some distance to go for the country as a whole. The problems are gigantic in some of the more "backward" states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. And yet there are other states in which the Indian numbers are similar to China's.

There is also one state, Kerala, where the life expectancy is higher than China's (75 years at birth, as opposed to China's 72), and infant mortality lower (12, as opposed to China's 28). Kerala has had good state policies of supporting school education for all and making sure that it works, and has provided free health care to all for many decades now. Even though now many better-off families choose private medical care, everyone still has the option of having health care from the state.

If India has to overcome these failures, it has to spend much more money on expanding the social infrastructure, particularly school education and basic health care. It also needs to spend much more in building up a larger physical infrastructure, including more roads, more power supplies and more water. In some of these, the private sector can help. But a lot more has to be spent on public services themselves, in addition to improving the system of delivery of these services, with more attention paid to incentives and disciplines, and better cooperation with the unions, consumer groups and other involved parties.

On the basis of some investigations that have been done by the Pratichi Trust (a trust I was privileged to set up in 1999 through the use of my 1998 Nobel money), it is clear how much needs to be done and can be done to change the organizational structure of school education and basic health care. (We studied only one part of India, but the results from other studies from elsewhere in India are often quite similar.)

However, aside from organizational change, more public funds, too, will be needed. Where will the money come from? Well, to start with, India can spend a much higher proportion of its public resources on school education and on basic health care, on both of which its percentage share of public spending is among the lowest in the world.

There is, furthermore, good news that has been discussed astonishingly little. If the total revenue, from taxes and other channels, of the central and state governments keeps pace with the rapid growth of the economy, when the economy is growing at 8% a year, that would be a big rate of increase of available funds for public services. As it happens, government revenue has persistently grown faster than the growth of gross domestic product: in 2003-04, the economic growth of 6.5% was exceeded by the revenue growth of 9.5%, and in 2004-05 to 2006-07, the growth rates of 7.5%, 9%, and 9.4% have been bettered, respectively, by the expansion rates of government revenue (in "real terms"--that is corrected for price change) of 12.5%, 9.7% and 11.2%.

Money will continue to come very rapidly into the government's hands if the fast economic growth continues. What is critically important is to use these generated resources to remedy India's continuing deficiencies, in particular in basic health care, in school education and in rapidly expanding its physical infrastructure.

So, as we look back over the last 60 years, some things have happened well enough, and some, where the gaps were large, have started to catch up. However, there are other areas in which there are still huge shortfalls. These gaps would need to be urgently remedied. We know what to do, and there are resources to do it. What we need now is some determined action to do what we can do and must do."


Amartya Sen is the Lamont University professor and a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University. Previously, he served as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford. He was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics "for his contributions to welfare economics" and was the first Asian to receive this honor. He has served as the president of the American Economic Association, the Indian Economic Association, the International Economic Association and the Econometric Society.

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Pakistan's Challenges

Read here a story about Pakistan at 60 taken from Forbes.com. The story talks about the challenges that Pakistan currently faces.



"At 60: Pakistan's Potential, Pakistan's Conundrums", by Ruth David

Sixty years of independence may have mellowed its fights with its fraternal twin, India. But Pakistan is still struggling to realize its full economic potential as political uncertainty and the image it bears of being a safe haven for terrorists discount its standing among global investors hunting for new markets.

A country that grew at 7.5% annually over the past five years and is estimated to grow at around that rate for the next five is finding it tough to attract an abundance of outside money because of mainly political concerns. Last year, Pakistan got about $8.5 billion in foreign investment.

“Overseas investors, especially in the Western nations, have become more cautious. But investors from regions like the Middle East and China don’t seem to be as worried about political risks,” said Ahsan Chishty, an economist at Standard Chartered Pakistan. Legislative roadblocks to privatization and delays in important private sector listings have also emerged as a key concern for investors.

Pakistan’s trade balance remains problematic, as imports are growing twice as fast as exports, he observed. The current account deficit will probably reach 5.0% of GDP, against 3.8% in the last fiscal year.

But going by Pakistan’s history, there’s a consensus that economic and trade policies will more or less remain the same even if governments change, Chishty said. And the military government has been more successful than democratic governments in executing economic policies, he pointed out.

The Muslim-majority nation’s Independence Day celebrations Tuesday come at a tough time for President Pervez Musharraf, who assumed leadership after a bloodless coup in 1999.
The president’s attempt to fire independent Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry resulted in months of street protests. Ultimately, the Supreme Court struck down Musharraf’s action. The setback led to renewed vigor among the political opposition, though they’re not yet fighting as a unified front.

And in July, Musharraf’s decision to send the army into Islamabad’s Red Mosque--where militants were holed up and had taken innocents captive--resulted in the deaths of around 100 people. He drew flak for not cracking down earlier on extremists using the mosque. More than 200 people have died in attacks by militants in Islamabad since the mosque encounter.

The incident, a stark reminder of the potent presence of terror groups in Pakistan, prompted Standard and Poor’s to revise its outlook on both the country’s foreign currency rating and the ability of local companies to meet domestic and overseas obligations to “stable” from “positive.” “The outlook revision reflects growing concerns over the country’s deteriorating security environment and the risk of potential fiscal slippages,” it said.

Pakistan is seen as a key ally in the U.S. fight against militant groups in the regions. Nevertheless, “While he has helped undermine one specific terror organization [Al Qaeda], Musharraf and his team have very systematically encouraged the growth of several other terrorists on Pakistani territory. But the West chose to ignore that,” said Sundeep Waslekar, president of the think tank Strategic Foresight Group.

Neighboring Afghanistan is has suffered because Taliban members using remote areas of Pakistan as a refuge have been attacking bases in that country since 2002, Waslekar pointed out. And, New Delhi has on several occasions accused Islamabad of sheltering terrorists who launched attacks on its soil.

But Pakistan’s ties with India have improved considerably in the last few months. Officials from both countries are engaged in yet another round of peace talks aimed at resolving economic and political issues, including Kashmir, over which they have fought two wars.

They now aim to increase bilateral trade to $10 billion, up from last year’s level of $1.6 billion. Restrictions from both sides have severely hampered business in the past, encouraging the growth of trade by smugglers via Saudi Arabia and across land borders, estimated at a whopping $2 billion.

“The India-Pakistan dialogue is serious, and the two countries are committed to finding some way to reduce tension if not resolve all the conflicts.… But the main problem is not so much any specific issue, including Jammu and Kashmir, as it is the lack of willingness on the part of security elite in the two countries to accept the other as an adult partner in the relationship,” said Waslekar.

Amid mounting pressure internally and from the United States, Musharraf is expected to call national elections early next year so the country can return to democracy. And, though plenty of uncertainties remain, if the political transition is smooth, the economy will “outperform,” predicted Chishty.

But, as with India and several other emerging nations that are witnessing a spurt in growth, Pakistan has taken criticism for a pattern of growth that leaves behind large segments of the population. In a country of 160 million, where 33% live under the poverty line by U.N. estimates, the state has completely neglected the impoverished, say critics.

The national mood is mixed. The corporate sector and business community have benefited a lot in the past eight years. They have made huge profits and would like the status quo with minor variations to continue. But the broad masses are highly restive. “Inflation has hit them hard,” said political commentator and former army General Talat Masood. Inflation is topping 6% at present.

“Clean water is a luxury and public transport throughout the country is pathetic. Infrastructure in major cities remains inadequate, and there is a huge energy deficit,” he added.
But there’s optimism that Pakistan’s civil society is reasserting itself, as witnessed during the judicial crisis earlier this year. “There is a definite change in the attitude of people,” Masood said.

But the former army man was unequivocal on one issue. “Pakistan needs genuine democracy and not a fake one if it has to be at peace with itself and the outside world.” Inshallah to that!"

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fiji to organise a film festival

A committee is looking at organising a Fiji Film Festival in 2008 to promote the audio visual industry in the country.

The suggestion came up after a visit to Dubai by the Interim Minister for Tourism.

The festival is to showcase international films as well as documentaries from Oceania.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pacific Islands push for review of trade agreement

Forum Island countries from the Pacific are pushing for a review of a trade agreement, the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA), according to the Forum Secretariat.

The call for the review is to enable more access of products from Pacific Island countries into Australia and New Zealand.

SPARTECA, which has been in effect from the 1980s, is a non-reciprocal trade agreement under which the two developed nations, Australia and New Zealand, offer duty free or concessional access to products originating from Forum Island Countries.

Australia and New Zealand are said to be ready to negotiate improved market access to make the agreement more equitable.

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Fiji's mining sector has potential

Fiji's mining sector has potential for further development.

Read more in an article taken from the Fiji Times, Saturday, 11 August 2007, below.



"Probert highlights mining potential, Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fiji has the potential to further develop its mining sector, says Fiji Employers Federation official, Harvie Probert.

Mr Probert, who is chairman of the federation's mining and quarrying council, was speaking after a meeting of the combined councils of the FEF in Suva this week.

He said there was a lack of appreciation of the mining industry and its contribution to the economy.

He said two leases were issued for gold mining in Fiji one for Asia Pacific Resources and the other to Emperor Gold Mines in Vatukoula.

Mr Probert also highlighted Australian company Newcrest Mining Ltd's deal last month to take a majority stake in the Namosi gold mine.

Newcrest executive officer corporate, Daryl Corp said the company decided to enter into the project because the Namosi tenement was a highly prospective large copper-gold porphyry mineralised system to which Newcrest's deep drilling and exploration expertise would be applied.

"The immediate work program for Namosi will include concept level studies centered on previously identified mineralisation at Waisoi as well as testing possible depth extensions of the Waisoi mineralisation," said Mr Corp.

"Initial emphasis of the regional exploration activities will focus on the more than 15 significant copper and gold prospects already identified during reconnaissance level exploration within the broader Namosi tenement."

Meanwhile, Interim Mineral Resources Minister Tevita Vuibau said the interim Government would consider other companies interested in operating the Vatukoula gold mine.

Mr Vuibau said the interim Government was still in talks with Australian company Westech over the terms of a package to finalise the company's purchase of the Vatukoula mine.

The interim Government is calling for expressions of interest to operate the mine."

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Native Land Trust Board General Manager Vacancy

The Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) is seeking suitably qualified and experienced Fiji citizens for the position of chief executive/general manager.

Key accountabilities include, among others :
  • providing policy advice and direction to the Board and leadership to senior officials on all matters relating to the mandate of the Board;
  • managing decisions and recommendations that have a demonstrable impact on the achievement of the Board's targets;
  • ensuring that NLTB is focused on delivering both long-term policies as determined by the Board and its administrative role as required under the Native Land Trust Act;
  • promoting the use and development of native land as an attractive and viable land tenure option to investors, lessees and other potential clients;
  • maintaining the transformation of the organisation into one which is client focused and commercially oriented; and
  • attending and advising the Bose Levu Vakaturaga meetings on matters relating to native land.

The likely incumbent should have a minimum of 10 years executive experience; an understanding and appreciation of the Fiji land tenure system and key stakeholder requirements; experience in development of policy (e.g. land use, development); and a high level appreciation of Fijian customs and protocols.

Applicants should submit applications marked "CONFIDENTIAL" with their resume/CV providing details of their academic qualifications, work experience and 3 referees to the Minister for Fijian Affairs, PO Box 116, Suva.

Applications close on Friday, 14 September 2007, at 2pm.

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Fiji Islands Revenue & Customs Authority CEO Vacancy

The Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority (FIRCA) is seeking suitably qualified, dynamic and motivated Fiji citizens for the position of Chief Executive Officer.

Key accountabilities for the position include :
  • overall management and leadership of FIRCA;
  • lead change management and continuous improvement of processes in FIRCA;
  • establish the strategic direction for FIRCA on a five-year rolling focus;
  • provide expert advice to the Board and the Minister on key issues relating to FIRCA and its impact on Government objectives and policies including revenue predictions;
  • develop a performance management framework for FIRCA.

Essential qualifications and experience for incumbent is to have a first degree and post graduate qualifications in either economics/finance or relevant area and have extensive experience at management level in a similar organisation.

All written applications are to be marked "Vacancy 11/2007" and addressed to the Human Resources Branch, c/- FIRCA, Private Mail Bag, Suva or hand-delivered to Level 6, Dominion House, Suva. Applications close on Friday, 7 September 2007, at 4.30pm.

For more information, pls contact Mele K Nalaukai on telephone (679) 3301551 extension 1178 or e-mail mnalaukai@frca.org.fj.

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Trade and Investment Mission to India and Indonesia

The Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau (FTIB) is organising a trade and investment mission to Indian from 8 October to 15 October 2007, and Indonesia from 16 October to 18 October 2007.

The mission will include visits to key industries and one-to-one meetings with potential joint-venture partners/investors and potential importers and distributors, based on identified areas of interest.

Business people who are interested to join this mission are to contact Liz Baledrokadroka at FTIB on e-mail liz@ftib.org.fj.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Call for more labour mobility in Pacific Islands

There has been calls for more labour mobility in Pacific Islands. Currently, Australia and New Zealand have been considering opening up their labour markets to allow for seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands.

Read an article on the issue below which has been reproduced from the Fiji Times.



"Australia must open up: Zoellick, Friday, August 03, 2007

The new president of the World Bank, Bob Zoellick, strongly believes it is "absolutely critical" for South Pacific countries to be able to send guest workers to Australia.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, Mr Zoellick said: "'Labour mobility is absolutely critical to the long-term development of the South Pacific."

"I don't know about Australia's visa and immigration rules but labour mobility will be important for remittances and skills for South Pacific countries.

New Zealand has adopted such a scheme and the Australian Labor Party is prepared to explore the idea, but the Prime Minister, John Howard, has ruled it out.

The World Bank, whose charter is the eradication of poverty, lends about $US24 billion ($F38.14billion) in concessional finance to poor countries each year.

Mr Zoellick, formerly the US trade representative and a former deputy secretary of state in the Bush administration, is in Australia for a meeting of the finance ministers of Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum countries.

He said he also wanted to explore with Australia the options for working co-operatively in helping the development of the South Pacific states.

The subject of failing and fragile states was a key area of concern for the bank, he said, and "a strong interest for Australia".

Mr Zoellick said failing states "are dangerous to their neighbours".

He nominated Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Cambodia as fragile states: "And frankly the development community has struggled with how to deal with these countries," he said.

Foreign workers allowed temporarily into Australia would return to their countries with new skills, while they were also able to send their pay packets home to their families, Mr Zoellick said."

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Vice Chancellor Vacancy - University of the South Pacific

The University of the South Pacific (USP) is seeking applications for the position of Vice-Chancellor.

The University is only one of two regional universities in the world. It serves 12 member countries including : Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

USP is a modern, forward-looking, multi-modal institution of learning with a large number of students studying by distance mode, increasing access to face-to-face teaching at the regional campuses, and the provision of flexi-schools.

USP has almost 20,000 enrolled students of which there are around 12,000 full-time students.

The University is seeking a new Vice-Chancellor who has an outstanding record of academic and/or professional leadership; one who can provide the appropriate mix of visionary flair, personal leadership, and management skills to realise the goals of USP as the region's leading tertiary institution.

Applicants are required to have an understanding of educational and public policy issues affecting Pacific Island countries and a commitment to the development needs and aspirations of Pacific Island people.

The Vice-Chancellor is the Chief Executive Officer of the University and its academic and administrative leader.

Before submitting a formal application, pls seek further information about the position, the University and the conditions of employment from Mr Walter Fraser, Vacancy FVC001, PO Box 5007, Raiwaqa, Suva, Fiji or e-mail VCAppointment@usp.ac.fj.

Applicants should send a letter of application addressing stated criteria, a full curriculum vitae, and the names and addresses of three referees to :
  • Mr Walter Fraser;
  • Vacancy FVC001
  • PO Box 5007
  • Raiwaqa
  • FIJI.

Applications close on Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 4pm.

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Fiji Ports Corporation Limited Chief Executive Officer Vacancy

The Fiji Ports Corporation Limited (FPCL), a Government Commercial Company, is currently advertising for a Chief Executive Officer.

FPCL provides all commercial port operations, asset and business management and related port activities to facilitate trade in and out of Fiji by managing, developing and promoting the Fiji port services in an efficient and effective way.

The CEO will be accountable to the Board of FPCL for the overall commercial operations of FPCL, and will provide the drive, leadership and motivation required to lead a Government Commercial Company towards more profitable and customer driven company focus. He/she will be required to introduce innovations recognising the commercial realities and putting in place strategies aimed at optimising efficiency, performance and achievement to clearly defined corporate objectives, and drive the necessary change management.

Being sought is a person with proven leadership qualities who can demonstrate the capabilities to take on the challenging and demanding role.

Senior management experience with a relevant first degree and a Master degree in Business Administration, Economics or a related field.

Written applications are to address the critical job competencies provided in the role description and include a curriculum vitae with 3 referees.

Applications marked "CEO, Fiji Ports Corporation Limited" are to be sent to :
  • The Chairman
  • Fiji Ports Corporation Limited
  • PO Box 780
  • Suva
  • FIJI

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Expressions of Interest sought for operating Vatukoula Gold Mine

Government is seeking Expressions of Interest from companies to operate the Vatukoula gold mine.

Vatukoula ranks among the world's longest producing gold mines and hosts a JORC compliant, world-class gold resource in excess of 5 million ounces.

The mine will appeal to middle to top tier companies seeking maximum exposure to the prevailing gold prices and an immediate expansion of its resource base.

Gold at Vatukoula is largely refractory and is associated with telluride minerals, accessory base metal sulphides and native silver. Free gold occurrences are limited.

The mine is linked by tar sealed road to Tavua town and all the way to Nadi International Airport.

Site facilities include a fleet of TORO LHDs, trackless jumbos, crushing, grinding, flotation, roaster and CIP circuits, two trailing dams, ancillary vehicles, an assay laboratory, stores, offices, a tennis club, golf course, an airstrip and staff housing.

In late 2005, the Vatukoula gold mine had prepared a schedule of capital and cash costs for ten years to 2015. Bulk of the capex was related to mining with development capex set at F$67 million out of a total of F$101 million.

The average cash cost was estimated at F$580/oz, against F$958/oz as the world spot price average.

For more details and technical issues, pls call The Director of Mines, Department of Lands and Mineral Resources, Private Mail Bag, Suva, Fiji on telephone (679) 3381611 extension 499.

Expressions of Interest are to be sent to The Director of Mines at the above mentioned address and will close on Friday, 31 August 2007, 4pm.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Fish exports to the US grows

Fiji exports to the US has continued to grow and has surpassed the US$1 million mark in April 2007.

Read more in an article reproduced from the Fiji Times below.


"Improved growth in fish export to US, Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Fiji's exports of fresh and frozen fish to the United States of America achieved a record in May, passing the $US1million ($F1.59m) mark for the first time to hit $US1.056m ($F1.68m).
This represented a 166 per cent increase over May, 2006, and a 6 per cent growth over April 2007.

Fiji Trade Commission Los Angeles office trade and marketing officer, Colin King said: "We have been pushing hard to open up new markets and expand existing ones for fresh and frozen fish here in the USA and we are pleased to note the good results achieved by this export industry.

This export product performed extremely well in the first five months of 2007, averaging a growth rate of 32 per cent per month and surpassing all records for the same period in the past five years."

He said this category of export included fresh or chilled reef fish (eg sabutu, kawakawa, ta, kawago), frozen deep-sea fish (eg walu, tuna, mahimahi), dried and smoked fish, vacuum packed fillets and live fish.

Mr King said the growth demonstrated the high and increasing demand for Fiji fish, not only by former Fiji residents, but by small US restaurants.

He said the challenge faced by this commodity was the local exporters' ability to maintain consistent and sustainable supplies to meet the US demands.

Trade Commissioner Ilisoni Vuidreketi said their export promotion strategy was to develop selected industries like fish and agro-produce that had high growth potential.

"We are delighted to see the steady growth of fresh fish, one of our important resource-based export industries, and we forecast that it will set a new annual record this year," he said.

Fiji's top three exports to the USA are tuna loins, Fiji Water and sugar. Fresh and frozen fish has now moved up, surpassing timber, to become the number four export to the USA."

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More mobile telecommunications providers being sought

The Interim Government is looking for more mobile telecommunications providers to operate in Fiji.

The Government has expressed interest in issuing more licences to providers of mobile telecommunications to come in and provide services in Fiji.

Digicel, a Caribbean based company, has indicated interest in setting up operations in Fiji.

Currently, only Vodafone Fiji, a subsidiary of Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Limited, provides mobile services in the country.

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VoIP Vandals

While the Fiji Government is contemplating the issue of licences to VoIP providers, here is an article taken from Forbes.com that tells likely users of some of the negative issues with regard to that service.


"VoIP Vandals, by Andy Greenberg

LAS VEGAS - Internet telephone services like Skype and Vonage are starting to look less like digital gimmicks and more like the next generation of voice communication. They're cheaper than traditional phone services and increasingly fast and reliable. But they may also be far more hackable.

Security professionals at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas spent Wednesday outlining the exploitable vulnerabilities in voice over Internet protocol technology, or VoIP. In a series of presentations, they demonstrated ways in which cybercriminals can eavesdrop on VoIP calls, steal data from Internet telephony devices, intercept credit card numbers from VoIP connections and shut connections down altogether.

"VoIP is about convergence. The idea is that you save money and resources and time," said Barrie Dempster, a senior security consultant at Next Generation Security Software who made a presentation at the conference. "But convergent systems give you more avenues of attack, more ways in. It's not a secure environment."

Because VoIP connects telephone calls via the Internet, it shares the Internet's weaknesses, Dempster argued. Those include vulnerability to denial of service attacks, which overload servers with thousands of simultaneous requests for data, as well as basic hacking tactics like guessing the password of users who fail to change default settings.

Peter Thermos, chief technology officer of Palindrome Technologies, proved the point onstage: He played snippets of conversations recorded by snooping on VoIP calls, exploiting vulnerability in a common element in VoIP communications known as media gateway control protocol.

"Using this weakness in MGCP, you can do anything like reroute or tear down connections," He said. "But eavesdropping is especially scary."

Thermos also described an exploitable hole in ZRTP, one species of the VoIP language real-time transfer protocol: ZRTP encrypts all transmitted sounds, but not the numbers translated from tones. That means hackers can listen for credit card information communicated from touchtone phones.

Though the attacks on display were new, VoIP isn't: Internet telephony has existed since the early ’90s. But Dempster says its increasing adoption hasn't led to the patching of old bugs. In his presentation, he described how Asterisk, an open-source VoIP application, can be attacked using what he said was an "extremely basic" method known as a buffer overflow. "We point these problems out," he said, "But the lessons aren't being taken."

New mobile devices are also drawing attention to VoIP problems. Krishna Kurapati, founder and chief technology officer of Sipera Systems, demonstrated vulnerabilities of several Wi-Fi devices at Wednesday's presentations, crashing a Blackberry and a D-Link phone onstage by hacking their wireless Internet connections. He also simulated the theft of private data via VoIP from a laptop.

And VoIP attacks aren't just happening in onstage demonstrations; businesses are increasingly being hit. Several companies in the last year have been victims of "toll fraud," a scheme in which hackers break into a company's VoIP network and sell thousands of dollars worth of long-distance minutes.

Eric Winsborrow of Sipera Systems says that the wave of threats has been brought on by VoIP's new popularity in the business world as well as the technology's growing connection to the Internet at large, instead of smaller networks. He also points to plans at Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) to introduce VoIP applications into upcoming software as a sign that the technology's security issues are reaching a tipping point.

"There's a perfect storm of more openness and mobility, more mainstream adoption, and new entrants into the industry," he says. "The table stakes are getting much bigger.""

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Westpac Interest Rates (Updated 1.8.07)

Schedule of interest rates released by Westpac Fiji are as follows :
  • Business Lending Rate - 10.99%;
  • Residential Property Loan : Variable Rate - 10.75%, 1 year Fixed Rate - 9.00%;
  • Investment Loan : Variable Rate - 10.75%, , 1 year Fixed Rate - 9.00%;
  • Retail Term Deposits : 6 to less than 9 months - 1.50%, 9 months to less than 1 year - 3.00%, 1 year to less than 1.5 Years - 3.00%, 1.5 years to less than 2 Years - 3.00%, 2 years to less than 3 Years - 3.00%.
Interest rates are on a per annum basis and may be varied by the bank without prior notice.

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Fuel Prices in Fiji (Effective 1.8.07)

Fuel prices in Fiji effective from 1 August 2007 are as follows :
  • Motor spirit F$1.91 per litre (from F$1.98);
  • Diesel F$1.53 per litre (from F$1.55);
  • Pre-mix outboard fuel F$1.89 per litre (from F$1.96);
  • Kerosene F$1.28 per litre (remained the same as before).

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