Hon. Premila Kumar, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Community Development;
Chair of the Special Administrators for Nasinu and Nausori, Ms. Elizabeth Algar;
Mr Paula Rawiriwiri, Liuliu ni Yavusa o Kalabu;
Mr Yogesh Krishna, Chairman, Nasinu Land Purchase Co-operative;
Satya Narayan, CEO of Nasinu Land Purchase Co-operative;
Ashok Balgovind, Lead Consultant;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I’m delighted to be here this morning to officially open the new Laqere Market, well-placed along one of the most travelled intersections in Fiji.
I understand this is a truly Fiji-wide effort, as other Municipal Councils have stepped up to provide some of the trees and shrubbery that compose this Market’s landscape and deliver the beautiful final product before us today.
Initially, we planned a much grander opening for this morning, but todays scaled-down event is simply the latest sign of the extraordinary times we’re living through. But even in the midst of the global corona-virus crisis, Fijian farmers will continue to produce some of the world’s finest produce, our Fijian fishers will continue to reap the bounty of our reefs, and our Fijian market vendors will continue to uphold their vital role in our economy.
Here this morning, we’re commissioning more than a new centre of commerce for Nasinu, we’re passing the latest mile-marker on the road towards a more advanced Fijian economy.
I know many of the vendors who will work within this new market are accustomed to selling in the informal roadside stalls within Nasinu’s municipal boundary. These can be dangerous places to work. At times, vendors have had to sleep in their own stalls just to keep their goods and produce from being stolen. They are often unsanitary and unsightly. They do not represent how anyone ought to be going about their business in a modern economy.
Not to mention these stalls are scattered about, forcing customers to hop from stall to stall across Nasinu rather than do their buying in a single clean, consolidated location. This isn’t a new problem nor is it Nasinu’s alone, it is a decades-old issue that has plagued communities nationwide.
That is why – all across the country –we’re building new markets and mini-markets in the municipal areas that bring vendors out of informal roadside stalls and into safe and functional marketplaces in facilities that match the quality of anything found overseas. Because as our economy modernises, so must our markets, and so must the way we all do business.
Many of the informal roadside vendors within municipal boundaries are operating on road reserves or other municipal properties, or even the property of private individuals. By operating in an illegal manner, they are left without predictability or stability. We’ve made this investment for their sake, and the sake of both their physical and financial security.
For the wellbeing of our vendors and their customers alike, we must shift away from the informal disorganised way of operating.
This new Market is the chance for these vendors to embrace the future of Fijian commerce by establishing a permanent presence in this brand-new marketplace. I thank those vendors who have already taken the initiative to do so – all others must follow their lead.
Funded by my Government to the tune of 7.2 Million Dollars, this new marketplace contains 459 vendor stalls, 12 kiosks and three mini-restaurants. Thanks to our foresight, it also comes with ample room to expand parking in the future.
With its new restaurants and proximity to fish and meat markets, this Market is where customers will come for a more convenient, one-stop marketing experience. And – above all else – by supplying sellers with newfound security and sanitary facilities, we will lend a new measure of dignity to our vendors, all of whom play a vital role in putting food on the tables of Fijian families.
As our market vendors know, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t only a crisis of health, it is also inflicting severe and enduring economic impacts on our people’s livelihoods. In response, we’ve lifted some of the burden off the shoulders of market vendors by waiving stall fees for the first two stalls operated by all vendors in Fiji at least through the end of June.
You’ll notice walking in, the entry ways to this market are wide enough to suit those Fijians using wheelchairs for mobility, and Fijian living disabilities can also access a specially designed washroom on the ground floor.
Our Fijian Constitution enshrines unprecedented protections for Fijians living with disabilities, assuring them reasonable access to all places and the reasonable adaptation of buildings and infrastructure; that unquestionably includes Fijian markets as well.
No matter their physical ability, no Fijian should unduly struggle with something as essential as buying food for themselves and those they love – and we should all be proud that the new Laqere Market has been designed with every Fijian – of every level of ability – in mind.
Despite this time of tremendous uncertainty, Fijian progress will press onwards. We will lead the world towards a “new normal” of living, creating and sustaining livelihoods and doing business, we will do it safely, with our people’s health as our over-riding priority, and we will do it together.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.