Vunisei, Na Momo na Tui Vuda;
Tokotoko Nakelo, Mataqali Eluvuka, Yavusa Vaka
Momo Na Sabutoyatoya;
The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy;
Our Developer, Mr Alipate Tavai;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
Our 2013 Fijian Constitution bestowed 91% of all land in Fiji to the iTaukei for all time –– an inheritance that represents the greatest source of potential wealth in the country.
While the protections of that land were steadfast, its ability to provide landowners with high lease returns was held back by years of under-development. Cash does not grow on trees –– it comes from land that is leased. For land to generate money for landowners, it needs to be developed and then leased out at competitive market-based rates.
Developing land requires upfront capital that many of our landowning units lacked. That left landowners vulnerable to exploitation by outsider third party developers. These deep-pocketed developers may be able to develop the land, but they would usually lease it themselves and share only a meagre slice of their enormous profits with the landowners. In other cases, due to the shameful and needless politicisation of land in this country, landowners have avoided development out of misplaced fear.
It is simply the sad state-of-affairs that some political interests in this country want to keep landowners poor, afraid, and dependent on weak leadership. We don’t want that at all.
The Government I lead believe that landowners should be financially empowered and free to pursue development that betters their lives and builds generational wealth for their communities.
That is why we launched a sub-division initiative that was based on the values of entrepreneurship, stewardship, and partnership. Through it, Government directly funds the ambition of forward-looking landowners or landowning units to develop their land and earn market rate returns from the leasing of their land.
We allocated resources for iTaukei landowners to support them with complete land development packages.
This means that Government does everything from clearing and leveling the ground, to subdividing the land and then ensuring connectivity to all utility services including electricity, water, and brand-new paved roads.
Last week, we unveiled the first completed sub-division project in Nasoqeloa, Tailevu. Today, we unveil the second here in Vuda and the first in the Western Division, a subdivision prepped for eight residential lots at a total cost of $561,616.
Later this afternoon, I will be in Yadua opening the third.
Our forebearers could scarcely imagine a Government that was bold and compassionate enough to come in, completely develop a piece of land, and then hand it back to its landowners as a cash-generating resource. I want to congratulate Mr Alipate Tavai, for being among the first to recognize the great benefits of this initiative.
Mr Tavai, you have taken a step together with Government to financially empower yourself, your family, and your descendants. Your land that we have developed is a concrete symbol of economic prosperity.
It is proof of what a good government can do when it partners with the people. And it is an aspiration for iTaukei landowners nationwide. As a father and grandfather, it stirs my heart to think of the livelihoods this development will support today and for generations to come.
This impressive piece of developed land not only benefits Mr Tavai, it increases the overall land value in the surrounding areas. It will also mean that those who buy the 99-year leased land will build new concrete homes.
Banks will lend them money, they will need builders, tilers, plumbers, shops and all the other things that come with putting down roots in a community.
This means a higher return for all landowners. This means a huge rise in economic activity, and economic prosperity not only for the people of Vuda but for the wider Fijian economy. It is a win for everyone, because it will create more prosperity and put more money in the pockets of our people.
Mr Tavai, I hope your smart financial move inspires others. I encourage other iTaukei landowners to come forward and make full use of this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity for your future and your children’s future. Work with my Government to empower yourselves. Take advantage of this initiative and the many training and up-skilling initiatives for entrepreneurs that we provide.
If you look at the facts of our record, we have clearly been focussed on empowering all Fijians from the moment we entered Government. We have shown that we can achieve prosperity for everyone if we abandon the prejudices of the past and shut out the present voices of divisions. With every new development we achieve and every new dollar we put in our landowners pockets, we make the old politics more and more insignificant. There are some who don’t like this. I don’t care. All I care about is progress and prosperity for our people –– all of our people.
We know that 2013 Fijian Constitution guarantees landownership for all time –– there is nothing to fear about our land being taken, stolen, or otherwise alienated permanently. There are some people who have been lying about threats to your land for years. They know they are lying –– they continue to lie because they want you to ignore and disregard the economic policies that my Government has enacted to empower you –– to turn your land into a cash-generating asset.
Our economy is growing at its fastest rate ever and landowners should be sharing the benefits. Adopting a siege mentality only keeps us stuck in a backwards, unequal, and unprosperous past. We have to modernise and keep pace with a rapidly growing country. The truth we must recognise is that the economic prosperity of the iTaukei is tied to an integrated and inclusive Fiji. The same is true for all Fijians. When we make iTaukei land available for development, we grant our landowners prosperity, we create opportunities, like housing, for our fellow Fijians, and we better our beloved country.
Every Fijian wants this. I want this. So should you. The economy is ripe for these developments. My Government is investing in roads, water, electricity and the protection of the most vulnerable, especially during challenging times. We have taken the economy out of the pandemic and set ourselves on course for a record-breaking economic recovery. We are providing stability through inclusive and decisive leadership and that creates greater opportunities for all of us – all our men, women, the disabled, the not-so-wealthy and our children.
Now is the time for more of our landowning communities to develop their land and become part of this story of progress.
I wish to thank the Attorney-General, Shah from the Construction and Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Economy, Suliana Taukei from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Sanjesh from Scope Consultants, FRA, EFL, Telecom, Water Authority, BW Holdings Pte Limited, and our other partners.
Thank you to you all for your dedication and expertise in making this development possible.
Once again, congratulations to you, Mr Tavai. Your personal ambition and vision make you an inspiration for many more iTaukei entrepreneurs. I wish you every success.
Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.