Apr 11, 2021 Last Updated 4:12 AM, Apr 8, 2021

Thunderstruck mining company is discussing a joint venture arrangement with a shortlist of companies for its Rama copper and gold prospect. A company statement also says significant work is underway to prepare for a maiden drill at the Liwa Gold prospect.

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Fiji’s Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Faiyaz Koya says the country’s investment reform map is based on three pillars:

  • Alignment of domestic laws and regulations with international best practice
  • Revised role of national IPA (a new Investment Promotion Agency) law that will modernise the role of Investment Fiji, allowing it to develop into a complete IPA, and
  • Ease of doing business: such as the digitalisation and streamlining of approval processes and speeding up administrative procedures and requirements.

He made the comments at a virtual event, the “First Session and High-level segment: The WTO negotiations of an Investment Facilitation Framework for Development: What is at stake for Asian and Pacific economies?” last week.

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Fijian cybersecurity professionals from private financial institutions, telecom companies, the Reserve Bank of Fiji, the Financial Intelligence Unit, and government ministries have attended a US-government facilitated workshop on the latest trends on North Korea’s offensive hacking techniques.  According to the US, North Korea repeatedly targets Fiji with cyber-attacks to gain access to currency and to launder money in violation of international sanctions.

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FijiCare Insurance made an after-tax profit of $1.6million last year, a decrease of $2.8million over the previous year. Executive Director Avi Raju said: “For FijiCare, the closure of international borders as well as the overall increase in local medical costs has resulted in an escalation of our medical claims. Therefore, we are enthusiastic about the opening of Nasese Private Hospital and potentially other private medical providers, which we expect will increase medical facility options for our policyholders. Additionally, it has been pleasing to note that international travel restrictions for medical treatments are being gradually eased. From November 2020, India has opened its borders for medical evacuations allowing FijiCare policy holders to access overseas medical treatments after seven months of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in 2020.”

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Kontiki Finance Ltd has appointed Chirk Yam as an Independent Director. Yam has 37 years in the Accounting profession, and retired as a Senior Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers in December 2015.

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The closure of Fiji’s tourism industry and cessation of production for several weeks last year has seen Paradise Beverages post a $3.9millon loss for 2020. Volumes were also down 14.5% versus the previous year.

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Port Denaru Marina has also posted a net loss of $212, 622 for the six months to 31 January 2021, although it says this was better than budgeted. The marina says it welcomed more than 90 foreign flagged vessels under the Blue Lanes iniative last year, and is preparing to meet more this season.

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Toyota Tsusho (South Sea) Limited has appointed Hendra Joewono to its board, replacing Akio Ogawa. Joewono has held various senior executive positions in the various Toyota Tsusho Corporation group of companies.

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The Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF)  warns it will act against any employer who falsifies COVID-19 member withdrawals. Acting Chief Executive Officer, Viliame Vodonaivalu said the Fund noticed an increase in the number of Phase 3 applications for the reduced wage rate option that entitles a member to a lump sum payment of $550 or $1,100. “Employers are requested to be honest with the applications. Our verification processes includes checks on members’ contributions and we are able to see if the member’s salary has not changed. This is of great concern, especially if the member is accessing the full government top up subsidy.”  The next payment is scheduled for next week 13 April.

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Fiji Airways is preparing to fly its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft again, after getting the nod from the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF).

Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO said: “Everyone at Fiji Airways, including our pilots and technical crew have complete confidence in the safety of the MAX, given the intense scrutiny, thousands of test flights and necessary upgrades made to the aircraft over numerous months. Safety and care for our customers and staff remain our highest and unrelenting priority.”

Viljoen confirmed that the Full Flight Simulator at the Fiji Airways Aviation Academy was already being used to bring its pilots and technical crew up to speed with all the new and additional requirements following the re-certification of the MAX aircraft.

“We will continue to work with our regulators to bring the MAX aircraft into service, albeit for the limited number of freight and repatriation flights we currently operate,” he added.

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Fiji Kava stocks were up 26.9% at one stage yesterday (Wednesday 8) after announcing its noble kava products will soon available at Chemist Warehouse stores. Under this partnership, Fiji Kava's capsules will be available across more than 300 stores across Australia and New Zealand from April and May.

Fiji’s Minister for Economy says there will no civil service pay cuts. Speaking from Singapore during an online budget consultation, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the government’s wage bill is $1.1 billion (US$500 million) and the sector employs some 30,000 people.

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Fiji’s Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism, Faiyaz Koya says the newly launched Pasifika Heartbeat app is “a great example of how Fijians are exploring opportunities to make information services available to Fijians.”

“The health and medical services has become a leading sector where technology is playing a very important role - with the use of telemedicine and other app services. In fact, the pandemic has sped the digital transformation of healthcare. It has also boosted innovation in how patients can receive and consume health care services,” Koya said.

The Pasifika Heartbeat app is a digital repository of health-related information, including the geo-location of public and private health clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals.

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Investment Fiji has launched its new Fiji Trade Expo Series, with the first expo focused on marketing Fiji’s premium products to New Zealand, Fiji’s third largest export destination for merchandise trade. Other expos in the series will target Australia, USA, India, Europe, China, Japan, Indonesia and UAE. Fiji’s top exports to New Zealand are dalo, medicaments, garments, kava and fresh vegetables. New Zealand is also Fiji’s 3rd largest source of foreign direct investment in terms of both number and value of projects. 

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Research undertaken by the World Bank Group concludes removing non-tariff trade barriers could help countries maximise gains for women-owned businesses in the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.  Targeted policies – aimed, for example, at promoting paperless and automated custom systems – could help maximise the benefits of trade for women, who currently face greater challenges than men, the World Bank says.

About 1,500 cross-border trading firms took part in the survey, which showed that women-led firms experience greater obstacles. Fewer women are represented in trade associations and they are consulted less regularly when it comes to matters related to border processes. Women are also dependent on more flexibility in doing business due to more family obligations.

The Acting Permanent Secretary for Local Government, Shaheen Ali says  approximately $30 million has been given as concessional loans to 5,438 micro, small and medium enterprises as part of government’s COVID-19 relief efforts. These loans have been extended mainly in the agriculture, wholesale and retail, food and hospitality, transportation, manufacturing and other service driven sectors.

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A number of Fijian businesses continue to sign under the Fijian Grown logo. One of the latest is farm and floriculture outfit, Golden Cowrie Complex.

The Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor says Fiji could see a marginal economic recovery if borders open towards the end of the year. Ariff Ali says economic recovery will depend on fiscal support provided by the government in the 2021-22 national budget. “On a positive note, the RBF’s December Business Expectations Survey shows that overall business confidence has improved slightly from six months ago, possibly reflecting the successful containment of the virus locally, businesses adjusting to the new norm and concrete steps towards immunisation across the globe,” Ali says. He anticipates inflation will rise due to shortages as the result of Tropical Cyclone Ana and associated flooding. The full statement is available here.

Two companies listed on the South Pacific Stock Exchange (SPX) have suspended trading. Fiji Television (FTV) has suspended trading as it must recall and re-issue its financial statements for the financial year ending June 30, 2020.  In a statement today, it says “subsequent to the release of its Financial Statements…the FTV Board had undertaken certain internal investigations. The investigations identified some account adjustments which relates to prior years.”  The accounts adjustments are now being reviewed by an external auditor. Meanwhile Fijian Holdings (FHL), the parent company of Fiji Television has also suspended trading and expect its half yearly financial results to be delayed.

The IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is to support Fiji’s government to design an early childhood care services policy. A 2019 IFC report found that each year, employers are losing an average of 12.7 work days per employee due to parents juggling responsibilities at work and home, costing businesses an average of FJ$550,000 (US$273,000) each year in lost productivity, or about FJ$1,000 (US$497) per employee. The cooperation agreement will also see the introduction of a licensing and inspection system for childcare providers.

The Financial Intelligence Unit has warned Fijians against unregulated cryptocurrency trading and pyramid selling schemes. FIU Director Razim Buksh said instances of unregulated cryptocurrency trading and illegal pyramid selling schemes have been referred to them. They are being aggressively promoted on social media.

Fiji Crop and Livestock Council trustees have been elected for the next five-year term of office. They are: John Deo, Fiji Coconut Farmers Association; Josua Raitilava, Fiji Ginger Farmers Association; Filimoni Kilawekana, Fiji Dalo Farmers Association, and Simon Cole, Fiji Pig Farmers Association.

Thunderstruck Resources has appointed Rob Christl as Vice President Business Development and Investor Relations. Thunderstruck anticipates drilling to commence in June at its Liwa gold and silver project in Fiji.

The Fiji Banks and Finance Sector Employees Union has confirmed Aunendra Singh as its national secretary, and Faizal Hussain as president. Singh says COVID-19 had led to reduced hours, pay cuts and reduced recruitment in the sector, and as a union they need to find collective solutions to protect workers.

Pacific Trade Invest says 78% of respondents to its latest survey of Pacific businesses are confident their businesses will survive the COVID-19 crisis.

However the impact of COVID-19 on businesses has slightly worsened according to the survey, with 60% reporting a very negative impact, and 89% a negative impact.

62% of the resondents report a negative impact on their mental health.

Businesses continue to identify the three main challenges affecting them as poor cashflow, uncertainty over how long the crisis will last, and the impact of closed borders.

They say the three most needed areas of assistance are financial support, review of their financial position, and improved online commercial capabilities.

PTI has been running fortnightly surveys for several months and says it will continue to monitor business health and perceptions into 2021. This particular survey had 113 respondents.

The full survey can be viewed here: https://pacifictradeinvest.com/covid-19-response/pti-pacific-business-monitor

 

Worry for PNG business leaders

At a brief sitting of Papua New Guinea’s parliament in November – with all Opposition MPs absent – the James Marape government passed its 2021 Budget, before abruptly adjourning until next April.

Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey told the 51 MPs present in parliament that government expenditure was expected to reach K19.61 billion (US$5.58 billion) in 2021.

It was, he said, “a very substantial increase of 9%” on the 2020 fiscal year. “The domestic and international context for our 2021 budget is the most challenging in our nation’s history. Since 1975, there has never been … a global crisis as the one we are now facing today,” he said. The Budget for 2021 also reveals lower government revenue at K12.9 billion (US$3.67 billion), and the largest planned deficit of K6.63 billion (US$1.88 billion).

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