Turaga na Roko Takala;
Turaga na Roko Tui Tokou;
Honourable Cabinet Ministers;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you.
As you know, it has been a priority of my Government to upgrade the transportation infrastructure throughout the country. And that means highways, roads, bridges, jetties and ferries. It is a huge undertaking, but we have pushed steadily over the last seven (7) years to make these improvements.
Modern transportation infrastructure is critical to our economy and to the social fabric of the country. A reliable transportation network links communities together. It helps people get their goods and crops to market. It allows people to get to their workplaces and children to get to their schools. It is the backbone of a modern Tourism Industry. It ensures that help can arrive at a home or a village at a time of dire emergency. It ensures that no one is isolated or left behind.
We have a special challenge in Fiji: to link in a permanent and efficient way people living in often isolated areas with other people on their island, and to link all the Fijian people living on all our islands together.
That means repairing and improving the roads, bridges and jetties we have to make them stronger, more modern and more able to withstand the ravages of storms and the threat of erosion brought on by climate change. It means repairing these assets quickly when they become damaged or worn, as they eventually will. It means being constantly vigilant for roads that need to be upgraded as they become busier. And it means never being complacent. We aspire to build the best network possible, and we will accept nothing less.
Today we will commission this important project for the people of Tokou Village, Nasinu, and all of Ovalau. This beautiful new road, with a retaining wall to protect it from the sea, replaces one that had become work and rutted, as roads do.
Its bridges and jetties have been renewed or replaced. We once again have the kind of integrated transport infrastructure here that your people deserve. This was done at a cost of nearly One-and-a-Half Million Dollars, but it will produce many times that amount in economic activity that it will help to stimulate every day. It is a well-known fact that an efficient transportation system boosts the economy and help drive incomes upward. So good roads and bridges are more than just a joy to ride on. They are very much the pathway to a better life for Fijians.
This is particularly important for our rural populations, who for too many years were neglected and left to live with a backward road system. But I will never accept the idea that we can leave even one family—or one person—behind in the modern economy. Everyone needs an opportunity to contribute and to grow and to prosper. That is why we have emphasized improving schools, and improving access to electrical power and water.
That is why we have sought to make the Internet available to everyone and put the power of information in their hands. And that is why we have extended legal services throughout the country, which put the power of the law into their hands.
Ladies and Gentlemen, enjoy this roadway and remember that it is not just a beautiful new road. It is a pathway to the future. It is first link with the rest of the country. And it is your road to prosperity.
Vinaka vakalevu – Thank you.