Na Gone Turaga na Tui Macuata;
Teachers and School Children;
Parents and Guardians;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and good morning to you all.
It is always a joy to me to witness the way life can be transformed in our rural and maritime communities with one act of progress.
Today, we will commission a grid extension that will bring electrical power to an entire community of 148 households and all of their activities.
The Energy Fiji Limited extended the grid some 26 kilometres to bring much-needed power to you, at a cost of just under Three Million Dollars.
My Government is working hard to meet our goal of ensuring that every Fijian has access to reliable electrical power by the end of 2021. We are doing it one community at a time, one island at a time, one settlement at a time. But progress is steady and sure, and we will meet our goal.
Fiji neglected the needs of its rural communities for too long. But that is in the past.
If we have the will to raise up the living standards of our rural communities, we will find the resources. And we do have the will.
If we face challenges of remoteness or terrain, we will find the ingenuity to overcome them. And we do have the ingenuity.
If we meet unforeseen obstacles along the way, we will adapt. And we are very adaptable.
This extension of the electrical grid is already making a huge difference in your lives. It gives you more flexibility in your day, because you will always have light for your work, or to help your children with their studies, or to read or sew or enjoy the company of friends and neighbours.
I like to say that having power 24/7 gives you control over time, and time is a precious commodity. Once it is gone, it cannot be recovered. So we need to use it well.
I am also pleased that the children will be able to study and do their homework lessons after dark, so they can enjoy the daylight hours in outdoor play and sports, things that are so essential to a child’s development. They can help their parents at work during daylight and still be able to study in the evening. The school will have guaranteed electrical power, which opens tremendous opportunities for teaching. And everyone can use whatever electronic devices they need and keep them charged.
These may seem like little things to people who take electrical power for granted, but they are a very big thing to people for whom electrical power has always been rationed during the day.
You will also not have to put up with the noise and the fumes created by generators, and I’m sure you are pleased about that.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our rural communities deserve the advantages of the modern world, and my Government is determined to end the inequality between our rural and our urban areas. Life in rural communities will never be exactly the same as in urban areas.
But we can compensate for the remoteness and sparse population in rural areas by having a sensible plan to bring them water, power, healthcare and education and finding the best way to deliver the most effective services to each community. And that is what we are doing.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I promise you that your Government is listening to you and is keen to ensure that you have the standard of living that every Fijian deserves. I thank you for waiting so patiently for this day. I expect this extension to open up new economic opportunities, new educational opportunities for your children, and greater happiness for you all.