The Assistant Minister for iTaukei Affairs;
Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs;
Representatives of iTaukei Institutions;
Officers of iTaukei Affairs;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Ni sa bula vinaka.
It is my pleasure to be here today to launch the 2023 – 2030 iTaukei Affairs Strategic Development Plan.
Friends, never before in Fiji’s history have the iTaukei people enjoyed such protection of their rights and opportunities to succeed. We launch this plan on a bedrock of protections that ensure every inch of progress that we make will benefit our future generations because none of the iTaukei’s greatest inheritance –– our land –– can ever be taken from us.
Unlike in times gone by, where the benefit of only a few elites was the norm, today every ordinary iTaukei woman, man, girl, and boy, enjoys the fruit of our nation’s progress and development. Lease monies are distributed equally. Appointments are based on merit. Assistance goes fairly to all who need it. And, unlike in the past, when iTaukei institutions operated in isolation from the workings of the wider economy, we are fully enlisting this Ministry and its supporting institutions into our over-arching mission to create economic prosperity for all Fijians. Fiji is at its strongest when we knock down silo walls and engage all institutions in building a better country.
When we employ that approach, the iTaukei people enter the mainstream and earn more, enjoy more opportunity, and secure bigger and better achievements –– as do all of our fellow Fijians. Together, we have proved that to be true.
I meet people from all walks of life nearly every day. I’ve been told countless times about the ways in which families and communities have benefitted from my Government’s legislation, programmes and assistance. Whether it has been the provision of free education for every child in Fiji or working to bring free digital TV to every single household; or whether it means paying private doctors all over the country so that every Fijian can access free health-care – you have seen that there is nothing that my Government will not do to secure the well-being and prosperity of our people.
As you know, we have had twelve successful Provincial Council Meetings this year. I want to acknowledge everyone that attended and contributed to those robust discussions.
This is what it means for Fijians to be empowered – ordinary iTaukei and Government working hand in hand to shape a Fiji that we can all prosper in together.
Of course, it takes a lot of hard work and planning behind the scenes to make success happen. And it starts with the practical step of putting together a plan to guide our work –– otherwise we are left rudderless to be blown any-which- way by the winds and tides. This strategic plan is a map and we –– those entrusted with its implementation –– are who must keep the nation on the course it sets. We also know that when we work on issues affecting our iTaukei communities, such as land, fishing grounds, headship titles, traditional knowledge, and culture, the only way forward is to work as one.
Today, for the first time ever, I am very proud to share that we have a joint Strategic Development Plan for both the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and the iTaukei Affairs Board.
It is aligned to the work that we are carrying out across Government to streamline business processes to improve services to ordinary Fijians. When we embrace the role of the Ministry and the iTaukei Affairs Board within Government’s machinery, we unlock its greatest potential. The saying goes, “no man is an island”. Neither is any Ministry or Institution. Our next step is to include other members of the iTaukei Affairs family, including the Centre for Appropriate Technology and Development in our national planning. This is already in the works.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a Strategic Plan is only as good as the results it helps us achieve on the ground; and it gives me great pride to know that our results are already speaking for themselves. As an example, in the last fortnight alone, I have opened three subdivisions in Namata, Tailevu, in Yadua, Nadroga, and in Vuda, Ba, belonging to iTaukei land- owning units and individuals. These subdivisions were fully developed by my Government at no cost to the landowners through the iTaukei Land Development Initiative; and include electricity, water, and paved road access.
It is unheard of for a Fijian Government to come in, completely develop a piece of land and then hand it back to the landowner free of charge, to be used as a community cash-generating resource. And it is emblematic of our inclusive development approach. Because when we help develop iTaukei land, we not only create sustainable income for landowners –– we create housing and raise the value of the land across the country for the benefit of every Fijian.
Similarly, the iTaukei Land Trust Board Digital Platform and Online Marketplace was launched last Friday. This is expected to improve lease processing times while driving up the value of land thereby benefitting landowners.
I was also pleased to note recently that Fijian Holdings recorded a $14.9 Million Dollars net profit for the year ended June 2022.
Friends, the Plan we hand-over today is about the actions that we must take to secure the future charted in our National Development Plan, the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We have re-strategized. We have realigned priorities and activities. This Plan is about our collective dreams and aspirations. It is a detailed actionable steps to achieve them.
The eight (8) priorities you will see highlighted are designed to open more doors for the iTaukei community; to create more opportunity; and to improve the good governance and well-being of the iTaukei as mandated under the iTaukei Affairs Act.
The Plan is another step forward towards equity in all areas for the iTaukei people. It is a plan for a better future; a future of unlimited possibilities. A future for the Vanua. A future in which no person is left behind.
Today, I call for your strong support for our Plan—your Plan.
Now is a time for visionary and inclusive leadership more than ever, as we continue our rapid economic recovery from the dark days of the pandemic. This moment is one of real urgency. The prosperity of the iTaukei and of all Fijians depends on us staying true to the path we have laid together towards the vision articulated through this Strategic Plan. We cannot stall now. We certainly cannot go backwards. We must build on partnerships we have forged; the resources we have invested; and the progress we have made together.
On that note, I am proud to launch the 2023 – 2030 iTaukei Affairs Strategic Development Plan; which I fully believe has the means to co-ordinate the big bold steps needed, in coordination with all of Government, to realise our ambitious goals for the Vanua and to transform iTaukei communities for a better Fiji for all Fijians.
Vinaka Vakalevu – Thank you.