Ni sa Bula Vina’a, Namaste and a very Good Morning to you all.
I also welcome and greet everyone watching via livestream.
I am under Doctor’s orders to rest for a few days, but I decided it is important for me to be present here today given the significance of this Summit not only to the Coalition Government, but to the nation as a whole.
Therefore, I decided to be here to address the Summit and then leave you to discuss the technical aspects and details as ‘Econocrats’.
After this, I promise I will take some rest.
This Summit is historic because the last Summit of this kind was held 15 years ago in 2008.
It is also timely taking into account the need for our country to take stock, make the necessary changes and decisively move forward.
This morning I am wearing my Adam Smith Tie.
I expect most of you would have read Adam Smith’s 1776 book ‘The Wealth of Nations’ (the same year as the Declaration of American Independence).
I urge those of us who will implement the outcomes of this Summit to be mindful of some of the gems left by Adam Smith where the free market allows for capital formation and growth opportunities.
As you are fully aware, and we all agree, that we face many daunting challenges that we must collectively address.
Apart from the current unsustainable national debt level, we also have to be mindful of the geopolitical and global economic environment.
As a small, island developing state, we are vulnerable to such events which are beyond our control.
It is critical that we must make timely adjustments so that we can cope and be able to survive in the global trading environment.
We have just been through one of the world’s worst Pandemics of Modern Times, with Covid-19.
It affected the whole world, and was more devastating for small Islands Developing economies like Fiji.
The Russian – Ukrainian War in Europe made our efforts to recover from the pandemic more challenging particularly due to the supply-chain issues.
We must address these challenges collectively through this Summit, and craft solutions together as a Nation.
We need to strengthen our laws and institutions.
We need to restore investor confidence and improve the business environment and at the same time, protect our natural resources.
We need to rebuild our infrastructure which has been neglected, and most importantly look at ways to ease the burden of the high cost of living for our people.
We need to strengthen the private sector which we so glibly call the “Engine of Growth.”
It is important to promote trade and build the confidence of the Private Sector – let’s learn a point or two from Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations’.
Whilst at the same time we must continue to strengthen both multilateral and bilateral relations with our trading and development partners.
The Coalition Government strongly believes that addressing these priorities head-on is the cornerstone to building a progressive and prosperous nation for our future generations.
I cannot stress enough how important this Summit is to the nation.
I am sure that with our collective knowledge and wisdom, we will be able to develop practical and lasting solutions, to improve the lives of our people.
I encourage you all to participate fully in this Summit, and find workable solutions to promote economic growth and overall development of our country.
I am confident that the findings and recommendations from this Summit will contribute to the formulation of the National Budget and our National Development Plan.
Let me share some of my thoughts with you.
Reshaping our future means more than just promoting economic growth and development.
A brighter future for our nation requires our communities to be united and move away from divisions.
We all know what those divisions have done to us.
Let us all come together to build a nation of enduring unity and prosperity.
On many occasions we have declared that we in government are your servants and not your masters. It is our obligation to treat everyone with humility and fairness.
This Summit is the implementation of our commitment to genuine dialogue and consultation with all our stakeholders.
Inclusivity lies at the heart of the Coalition’s strong belief in a transparent and accountable leadership.
Let us be reminded that we can all work together to seek solutions to challenges and maintain our different political viewpoints.
I am so pleased to note that all Members of Parliament have been invited to attend this Summit.
Our approach is about keeping Fiji moving in a unified direction and creating confidence that leaders can put their differences aside and work together to chart a new future for all.
This I believe reflects the spirit of our Summit .
I hope that our deliberations in the next two days will surely bring unity and solutions to our collective challenges.
I wish all of you the very best in your deliberations.
Before I end, may I ask everyone to please shake the hand of your fellow participant and remind ourselves of the Summit theme:
“For Fiji, we need to reshape our future through genuine dialogue and collaboration.”
May God Bless You, and May God Bless Fiji.
– Ends –