Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
My fellow Fijians:
It is my task today as your Prime Minister and Minister for Finance to present to you the 2014 budget.
Next year will go down in our history as the year that Fiji first embraced genuine parliamentary democracy and set a new constitutional course towards a brighter future for every Fijian. It will mark the culmination of my Government’s efforts to put in place changes that will yield long-term benefits for Fiji and all Fijians.
We have a new Constitution to guide us, one that will allow Fiji to prosper as a united nation.
For the first time, Fijians have a Constitution that protects a wide range of civil, political and socio-economic rights.
For the first time, Fijians have a Constitution that demands accountability and transparency from Government officials, which builds strong institutions, and enshrines principles that are at the heart of all the world’s great liberal democracies.
For the first time, our nation has a Constitution that establishes a common and equal citizenry, without denying anyone’s individuality or culture.
The Constitution recognises and protects the indigenous peoples of Fiji and their unique customary practices, culture, tradition, language and communal ownership of land.
At the same time, it also protects the rights of all other Fijians, including the rights of tenants and lease holders.
The provision of rights, ladies and gentlemen, is not a zero sum game as was professed previously and is unfortunately preached by some even today. We all can enjoy equal rights and also at times specific rights, but without having to take them away from others.
In these seven years of my Government, we have worked methodically to try to resolve some of our long-standing problems with lasting solutions.
Some of these problems we inherited from our colonial past and we ignored them for far too long. Some of these problems were created by post-independence political leaders who cared more for short-term political gain than for the long-term benefit of the nation, or who simply lacked vision, acumen or the necessary concern for the Fijian people.
I am proud to say that we have not shied away from making decisions necessary to guarantee a bright future for our children and grandchildren. Not all these decisions were politically popular at the time, but they were important to modernise Fiji for the long term and to create a society in which there is more opportunity for everyone.
I am satisfied as I look back at what we have accomplished. Each year we have tackled new problems, and you and I can see the results.
We have made government services more readily available to more people than ever before. We have reformed social welfare to give more help to the neediest while creating opportunities for them. We have established partnerships with the private sector and are reforming state owned enterprises. We have revitalised the sugar industry, created a sustainable mahogany industry, and made our ports efficient. We have embarked on an ambitious program to correct the deplorable condition of our roads. We have begun reforming the civil service to make it more professional, accountable, and results-oriented. Continue reading