Feb 26, 2017 Last Updated 12:56 AM, Feb 15, 2017

SIX years ago, a physically challenged woman in a wheelchair ventured out into the streets to sell her home-made meals and pastries. At the time, she met with disapproval from people she knew. The local authorities didn’t make it any easier for her. But she didn’t give up.

Today, 55-year-old Taina Foss, nee Shaw of Nukuwatu, Lami, is an established small micro entrepreneur who reckons she is richer than most blue-collar workers. She epitomizes physical disability being a non-deterrent against one’s endeavor to succeed in life. “I didn’t want to depend on anyone. When I started, people disagreed – sitting by the curb in my wheelchair doing this,” she said as she waved her hand to the knee-high table next to her upon which one will find an array of pastries, roti parcels, fresh seasonal fruit drinks to name just a few items she sells.

“They said it didn’t look good for a disabled person to sit in public doing that. “Today, I think I make more money than those with better jobs, because on Mondays they’re at my door asking for money – my credit book is full of names.” Through her peddling, the widow and mother of four, solely supports her youngest offspring, a 15-year old fourth form student of Cathedral Secondary School. 

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More work, fewer workers

Deadline looms for Northern Mariana Islands

ONCE the clock turns 12 midnight on December 31, 2019, a cloud of uncertainty would hang in the air in the Northern Mariana Islands. That is the expiration date of the CNMI - only transitional worker nonimmigrant visa program, better known as “CW-1.” The CW-1 program allows eligible foreign laborers to work in the CNMI while giving their employers ample time to change some of their hiring practices toward acquiring more from the local workforce or transitioning their guest workers to suitable US work visas if ever they want to keep their services.

The program, a unique work visa classification from other US states and territories, encourages businesses and other companies to employ more local residents or US citizens, eventually allowing foreign workers to find alternative immigration status before the transition period ends. It was established through the 2008 Consolidated Natural Resources Act or Public Law 110-229 that puts a cap on the number of foreign workers that decreases every year until it reaches zero after 2019.

The foreign worker permit system was only a five-year program that began in 2009 and should have ended in 2014 but the US Citizenship and Immigration Service granted the CNMI government another five-year extension that’s why the 2019 deadline. Governor Ralph Torres, however, along with CNMI Delegate Gregorio Sablan and the business community—

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I MET a fascinating business woman this week, and she doesn’t much want to be identified, just to let people know of her products. It’s the sort of occupation which has since forever engrossed the natives of the highest Italian Alps as summer faded from the horizon. Turning the fragrances of the romantic months into an aroma which reminds the people there of the now passed happier times helps the citizenry endure the long and chilly dark days and nights to come.

I’ll let her tell her own story ... “My little project started in June 2015 when visiting some of my family in Italy and discovering how a particular scent could typify a village or a community. I felt it a shame we have nothing like it in Vanuatu, especially given all the redolent and sweet smelling scents we are always exposed to around the islands. And whilst I was on an island in Tuscany I met parfumiers and started exploring the different combinations of scents and how they could be produced from the top notes to the bottom notes and essential oils that really make the recipes work.

“I knew we could make a perfumery work in Vanuatu. We have! “I undertook work with professional perfumiers getting advice from everyone in the business and exploring the fragrances I knew from my years in the islands. Friends and family assisted this voyage into the unknown. 

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Demand for energy savers

Concern over lack of trained mechanics

AS more and more Fijians are switching from conventional vehicles to the more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, the demand for properly trained mechanics something the Fijian market is struggling to fill. With over a 2000 registered hybrids on the roads, it is imperative that quality service delivery be introduced in the market for proper service and maintenance of these cars – also keeping in mind that most of these cars are second-hand. Drawing from experience, Director for GMH Autos, Shaheen Ali says Fiji needed to invest more in terms of training and scope in the automotive engineering sector – with a particular focus on hybrids.

“Our education sector should focus on providing more training, should upgrade the system in the automotive engineering studies so that they can focus on learning about hybrids,” he said. “Because there are so many hybrids, it is important there are proper services to maintain it - For eg, we have some customers who come from Lautoka, Nadi and Ba to specifically get their cars serviced here.”

Ali said despite having very good workshops with knowledgeable technicians that can work on Hybrid cars, and becoming well versed with Hybrid cars overtime,.....

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Paradise lost

New land laws drive foreign property owners out of Fiji

“The plan had been for us to retire, live on Koro [Island] for the rest of our lives and research and film the reefs. Simple. Then two things happened. Winston and my husband’s brain cancer.” Actually three things happened for C and her husband R, two of the estimated 5,000 foreigners that own prime land in Fiji.

In December 2014 and again in July 2016, the ruling Fiji First government used its majority in the Fijian Parliament to pass amendments to the Fiji Land Sales Regulations that force land owners like C and R to construct their home on their piece of land within 24 months or face hefty fines or worse, jail time when the construction deadline expires 31 December, 2016.

The house the amended law stipulates should at the minimum costs no less than $FJD250,000. But more repugnantly for these mainly American and Canadian prime estate landowners is the provision that applies these draconian laws retrospectively.

A month away from the deadline has seen prices of these prime land taken a free fall already, with parcels of mainly waterfront or upland lots being put back on the market for as low as $15,000. Others were priced at $20,000 to $25,000, Most of the land wasbought for at least.......

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