Islands Business reporter Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti has been talking to Pacific Islands ministers and officials at the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in Vanuatu about their economic priorities and regional opportunities.
Here are excerpts from a conversation with Fiji’s Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Faiyaz Siddiq Koya.
How is Fiji coping with increases in prices of fuel, transportation, and food?
Getting people to work is our key priority because without income, anything and everything is expensive. But we also recognise that prices have risen globally as a result of supply chain disruptions and what is happening in Russia and Ukraine, as well as other issues such as rising fuel prices and rising production costs, which we have addressed in the last two budgets.
In terms of how we provide unemployment support, now it is F$180, which is a dollar per day for pensioners in social welfare, tertiary students, and families that have kids. We also reduced the price of gasoline by 10 cents per litre. The government will subsidise a 10% reduction in bus fare.
We expect fuel prices to come down now, and you can expect that to translate to domestic prices in Fiji next month. We hope that continues. Once the fuel prices go down, it’s going to drive the other prices down.
A topic of conversation these past three days has been accessing climate finance. How important is this to Fiji?
On a global stage and in forums like this, Fiji has always talked about how the region is the worst affected by climate change even though we are the least contributors to it. We are calling on climate action and access to climate finance to get grants, get concessional loans for infrastructure to make it more resilient for when there is a cyclone, flood, or resilience- building, for example, how our electrical cables are on top of the ground while resilience building will see them run underground, which is more expensive. We can’t really do that if we do not get funding support from the countries that should in fact be providing this support.
Would Fiji support a hub to work together to access climate finance funds?
We in Fiji always welcome the idea of working with the region, and that’s why we are here with the other member countries. I think that the advantages of the Pacific Island Forum is we can have a united voice and we in Fiji are all about regionalism. We are fully supportive of that idea.