Dec 15, 2017 Last Updated 3:10 AM, Dec 12, 2017

Bainimarama diplomacy

Fiji’s diplomatic relations with China and India began under the leadership of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s Alliance government as it carefully guided a newly independent nation into the world of global détente. In 1975 Fiji opened diplomatic relations with China, leading to the establishment of a Chinese Embassy in Suva a year later. Fiji maintained its links with China through an embassy in Japan until 2001 when Laisenia Qarase’s Look North Policy led to the opening of a mission in Beijing. Fiji’s permanent office in India opened in 2005, even though the two countries had diplomatic relations since 1970.

The move was, again, part of the Qarase government’s policy of looking beyond Australia and New Zealand and had its foundations in the diplomacy of the Mara era. When Bainimarama seized power in 2006, China and India were the most lenient towards the regime and stepped into a vacuum left by Australia and New Zealand. The Bainimarama regime was able to capitalise on the work of previous Fiji governments and the willingness of the two Asian superpowers to strengthen relationships. India decided to engage with, rather than isolate Fiji. China took the stand that Fiji should be allowed as an independent nation to handle its affairs without outside interference.

At the time, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy director general Deng Hongbo said China had always respected Fiji’s status as an independent nation. “We have called on the other countries to do the same and reconsider their attitudes towards Fiji and the current situation in the country,” he said. Despite differences over the years – with China over relations with Taiwan and with India over the treatment of ethnic Indians in 1987 and 2000 – relations between Fiji and these large economies have never been better.

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Fiji Water, Digicel, ANZ take the lead

Businesses are among those hardest hit when storms, floods, tsunamis, cyclones and other hazards occur. Every year, cyclones hit the Pacific Islands and because of climate change these storms are set to become more frequent, intense, and unpredictable. Yet the development sector often ignores the private sector when it comes to efforts to reduce disaster risk and strengthen resilience. This is a mistake. Encouragingly, though, this exclusion of private businesses is beginning to end.

Three encouraging trends are emerging. First, the public sector and civil society increasingly regards the private sector as a central actor in efforts to strengthen disaster risk reduction. Second, several business leaders are coming to a similar conclusion. More enterprises are moving from managing disasters to managing disaster risk. The change in emphasis is important: it entails a shift from a focus on business continuity planning to one that proactively protects a business ahead of disasters.

Third, more and more opportunities are emerging for business to create value in markets related to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Overall, this paints an encouraging picture ahead of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, due to take place in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015. While the momentum is clear – and welcome – there remain significant challenges on the ground.

City and community disaster strategies often regard business owners and operators as distinct entity outside their pans. Such thinking ignores the innovation and ingenuity that businesses can bring to public-private partnership to reduce disaster risk. The 2015 World Conference rightly sees governments retain their leadership role in efforts to build resilience but the increasing role of private sector leaders is clear.

Business is responsible for up to 85% of all investment globally. Urban development is one key area. In the past few years, for the first time in human history, more people live in cities than in the countryside. That trend is set to continue. Given that globally, 60% of the area expected to be urban in 2030 has not yet been built, there is a tremendous opportunity to proactively shape and plan the cities of tomorrow.

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A national building code is required for Tuvalu to be better prepared for disasters, says the island’s Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga. Such a code would lead to the construction of stronger buildings on Tuvalu, strong enough to withstand adverse climatic conditions.

Speaking to Islands Business in Nadi recently, Sopoanga admitted that more still needs to be done in the area of disaster preparedness coordination, and building communication and protection infrastructure. “I have set up what we call a national advisory council on climate change that can advice directly to cabinet the response we should be doing on climate change impacts in particular sea level rise, cyclones and that sort of thing.

“The council so far has come up with very good proposals, one of which is to build a storage and protection building, or climate proofing all the buildings in Tuvalu that means legislating for a building code and that sort of thing. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done and also a great need for more presence of the international community in Tuvalu.

“We need for example the representation of the United Nations through appropriate persons on the ground in Tuvalu.” PM Sopoaga said his government doesn’t have a specific budget on disaster preparedness. The country’s entire budget is all about mitigating and adapting to adverse climate conditions. As an example, 40 per cent of Tuvalu’s budget is on education, and disaster preparedness and climate change are key components of the school curriculum.

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Despite a landslide election win and claims of nationwide popularity, the security cordon around Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has not weakened. In fact, once it became obvious that he had won the election, troops guarding his residence stepped up their alert levels. For several months they had stood at the gates to his Ratu Sukuna home with sidearms only. Now they maintain their posts in full battle gear. His retinue of six to eight armed gurads continues to travel with Bainimarama as he remains Fiji’s most heavily guarded leader in history. A similar human cordon surrounds Bainimarama’s closest ally, Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Tight security was in place as Bainimarama was sworn in at Government Houselast month with armed soldiers patrolling the gardens and manning the three gates to the Presidential residence on Suva’s Queen Elizabeth Drive. The usual single army sentry and orderly at the main gate were supported on the day by four police officers and three soldiers in full combat gear including helmets and live ammunition. There have been no public threats to the safety of the two men or the government after the election. No reason has been given for the high level of security.

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Project offers land for sale to foreigners

One of Samoa’s long established and reputable boutique accommodation providers, who built and run the popular Sinalei Resorts, has embarked on an ambitious firstof-a-kind project in the country. Sinalei’s promoters are planning Sinalei Premium Resorts, an all new $S40 million (US$17m) development adjacent to the picturesque property on the southern coast of the main island Upolu.

It is the first project to put to practical use Samoa’s as yet untested unit title legislation, which allows foreigners to buy and own land in the country. “The idea was to put to better use the land we have around our existing facility,” says promoter Joe Annandale. “We have so far been using just 20 per cent of what we have.” Annandale and sister and copromoter Sose Annandale also have an opportunity to offer the development to a wider clientele outside the country, thanks to the unit title legislation. An event showcasing the project to potential investors was held in Auckland and Wellington a couple of months ago.

Auckland based Pacific Islands Trade & Invest helped out with the marketing collaterals for the project. Interest in the project has been high not only from investors but also the entire real estate industry. The uber-premium villas are aimed at Samoans living overseas who wish to combine a luxury holiday in their own space with visiting their friends and relatives in their traditional villages as well as corporates and even local Samoan residents.

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