Ni sa Bula Vina’a and a very Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press Corps.
I also wish to greet the people of Fiji at home and abroad watching this press conference.
Thank you for being here today to cover the announcement of key decisions made at the second meeting of Cabinet held yesterday Tuesday 31 January 2023.
In accordance with the commitment made by the People’s Coalition Government to announce Cabinet Decisions after every cabinet meeting, I will now announce the decisions reached by your Cabinet yesterday.
The key decisions include the following:
(i) the establishment of the Decision–Making Machinery of the People’s Coalition Government;
(ii) preparations for the 2023 National Economic Summit,
(iii) preparatory Work for Municipal Council Elections;
(iv) review of the National and Trade Measurement Act 1989; and
(v) cooperation Arrangements with New Zealand, Kiribati and the MSG.
I will now elaborate on these decisions.
Decision–Making Machinery of Government
Cabinet reviewed the Decision-Making Machinery of Government with the objective to improve co-ordination and facilitate effective implementation of government’s development agenda within the framework of the People’s Coalition Government.
The Decision-Making Machinery to be adopted by the People’s Coalition Government will put in place check and balances and ensure inclusiveness, coordination, consistency, transparency and accountability in decision making.
Two Cabinet Subcommittees which are the Economic Strategy Committee (ESC), and the Cabinet Subcommittee on Budget (CSB), will be established. The Development Subcommittee of Permanent Secretaries will also be reactivated.
The Economic Strategy Committee (ESC) of Cabinet will be chaired by the Prime Minister. Its members include the three Deputy Prime Ministers. The Committee will deliberate on emerging economic policy matters and provide guidance on the formulation of the Strategic Development Plan for the next four years. New investment proposals that substantively require Cabinet approval will be deliberated at the ESC prior to Cabinet. Other Cabinet Ministers will be co-opted on a needs-basis particularly in the areas covering their respective portfolios.
To better align key decisions made at Cabinet level, the Prime Minister will also Chair the Cabinet Subcommittee on Budget (CSB). The membership of the CSB will include the three Deputy Prime Ministers. Other Cabinet Ministers, the Chief Executive Officer of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service and other officials, will be co-opted as the need arises.
Cabinet also agreed to reactivate the Development Subcommittee (DSC) of Permanent Secretaries. The DSC is a forum whereby the Permanent Secretaries deliberate on matters concerning government conduct and issues that govern the government machinery. This will allow Permanent Secretaries to be well informed of new policy initiatives, ease coordination and provide clarity on the workings of the Government machinery. The Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office will be chairing the DSC.
The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Civil Service will work closely with the Office of the Prime Minister on the effective implementation of the Decision-Making Machinery apparatus of Government.
2023 National Economic Summit
Cabinet agreed that the 2023 National Economic Summit (NES) be held on 20 and 21 April 2023.
The National Economic Summit will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance. The proposed theme for the 2023 NES is ‘Reshaping our Future through Genuine Dialogue and Collaboration’.
As Fiji moves into an era of change, engaging with all segments of society is essential to achieve the People’s Coalition Government’s overarching objectives of:
inclusive economic security,
inclusive participation in development and
environmental sustainability, drawing on lessons and insights of the past and present to set the economic policy agenda for the future.
The National Economic Summit will create a collective national vision, with adequate sector policies and an implementation framework for the People’s Coalition Government’s plan to chart a path towards economic recovery.
The Summit will set the Economic Policy Agenda for Accelerated Economic Growth, underpinned by sustainable and inclusive development.
It will deliberate on an actionable framework for:
transformative and effective economic governance;
build consensus on the imperatives for transforming Fiji’s immense human capital into a nationally productive and innovative capacity that creates a secure collective future of prosperity for all;
identify pragmatic initiatives to elicit economic leadership at the sectoral level, adopting a ‘Bottom-Up’ approach to sectoral competitiveness that contributes to national economic growth and development; and
articulate the framework within which economic priorities for Fiji are set out over the next four years.
Representatives from various sectors of the economy will be invited to attend the Summit in the spirit of adopting a consultative and collaborative approach towards addressing sustainable development issues at national, regional and global levels.
Municipal Council Elections
Cabinet approved the process to be adopted to facilitate the election of Municipal Councillors for Town and City Councils.
The process includes the establishment of a Working Group chaired by the Permanent Secretary Local Government, and comprising Heads of Central Agencies, the CEOs of municipal councils and the Fiji Elections Office.
The Working Group will formulate recommendations to the Minister for Housing and Local Government on:
the demarcation of Wards for each municipality,
the Number of Councillors for each Municipal Council, and
the necessary amendments to existing legislation.
It will also prepare a detailed Action Plan for the delivery of a successful municipal elections, including legislative amendments, policies, guidelines and standard operating procedures.
The working group will also prepare a budget for Elections for the 13 Municipal Councils and the operational costs for municipal councils with the elected councillors.
The Minister for Local Government will then table the Action Plan to Cabinet.
The assessment and performance review for Municipal Council Chief Executive Officers and Special Administrators will also be undertaken concurrently by the Ministry of Local Government.
Review of The National and Trade Measurement Act 1989
Cabinet approved the review of the National and Trade Measurement Act 1989.
The National and Trade Measurement Act 1989 is one of the two pieces of legislation that underpin the functions and roles of the Department of National and Trade Measurement and Standards in the Ministry of Trade, Co-operatives, Small and Medium Enterprises. The other legislation is the Trade Standards and Quality Control Act.
The Department of National and Trade Measurement and Standards is responsible for the implementation of laws and regulations that protects consumers from unsafe and poor-quality products and creates favourable conditions for exchange of goods.
It is intended to develop national and international standards to raise levels of quality, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability of products and services.
The Department also maintains the national systems of units and standards of measurement to ensure fair and just use of units of measurement and measuring instruments.
Cabinet noted that the 1989 National and Trade Measurement Act is archaic and prescriptive and agreed that it be reviewed and updated to make it relevant and easy to use.
The Department of National and Trade Measurement and Standards will be working closely with the Solicitor – General’s Office on the review process and drafting of the amendment Bill. The Bill will undergo consultations and be brought back to Cabinet before it is tabled in Parliament.
Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Fiji and the Government of New Zealand on Defence Cooperation and the Status of Visiting Forces
Cabinet approved an Agreement with the Government of New Zealand on cooperation in the field of defence and the status of visiting forces.
Fiji and New Zealand share a history of strong ties encompassing heritage, culture, sports, business and education. This reflects a common Pacific identity and strong people-to-people links.
The Agreement approved by Cabinet affirms the strong bilateral defence relationship between the two countries.
The Agreement establishes a framework which reaffirms the mutual benefits of interoperability between the RFMF and the New Zealand Defence Force.
It also recognises our shared interest in enhancing security cooperation to meet common challenges and maintaining a secure, sovereign, and resilient region.
The Agreement will allow the defence personnel of our two countries to undertake exchanges, deployments, and exercises in each other’s jurisdiction.
Fiji will benefit immensely from these military exchanges in terms of the:
exposure of the Fijian troops to New Zealand’s military training methods and standards;
interoperability and understanding of New Zealand’s military doctrine;
obtaining funding support;
facilitating the engagement of experts and acquiring of skills; and
exposure to new military equipment and hardware that are not otherwise available.
Memorandum of Understanding on Sports Cooperation between the Members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group
Cabinet approved a Memorandum of Understanding on Sports Cooperation between the members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
The MOU will be signed by all MSG members.
The aim of the MOU is to strengthen the existing cooperation within the MSG in the sports sector and provide a framework for sports policy development, technical and financial support amongst Members.
The MOU will encourage the development of sports exchange programmes, for capacity building and human resource development and support the financial commitment of hosting sanctioned MSG Tournaments.
Additionally, the MOU will provide a framework for collaboration within which detailed proposals for programmes of cooperation between MSG members.
Strengthening Bilateral Relations with Kiribati in the Fisheries Sector
Cabinet agreed that potential areas of supportive collaboration be explored between the Kiribati Fisheries Ministry and Fiji’s Fisheries Ministry.
As a chain of 33 low-lying atoll islands, Kiribati is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, impacts of climate change and other natural and manmade factors.
Kiribati is also resource-rich especially in fisheries. Fiji will pursue possible collaboration with the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in:
the promotion of fishing ventures between the two countries;
post-harvest, fish processing development and marketing including training;
joint research and development;
joint fisheries conservation and management; and
fisheries infrastructure development, just to name a few.
The potential areas of cooperation will be formalised via an MOU between our Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, and the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
Once the two agencies have confirmed the terms of the MOU, it will be tabled in Cabinet for decision.
State Visit to Kiribati
I am pleased to announce that the Government of Kiribati has written to me as Chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) expressing their willingness to re-join the Forum family. We will facilitate the process in consultation with all Forum leaders.
In addition, we agreed to strengthen our bilateral relations and agreed to revisit the following outstanding bilateral issues;
(i.) Air Services Agreement;
(ii.) Development of Kiribati owned land in Natoavatu, Cakaudrove, Vanua Levu to be a source that will ensure the food security for the people of Kiribati;
(iii.) Deployment of Fijian Legal professionals to the Kiribati Attorney-General’s Office;
(iv.) Training opportunities in Fiji for specifically for health and education professionals from Kiribati; and
(v.) Strengthening the networks with i-Kiribati students who pursue secondary school education in Fiji; and
(vi.) Re-establishment of the Rabi Island Council of Leaders.
The team of officials of both governments are working together in developing the necessary acceptable arrangements in addressing issues of common interest.
I would also like to acknowledge with sincere appreciation Australian Government support and assistance in the transportation of my team to Kiribati through making one of their Royal Aircraft available.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, that is a summary of Cabinet decisions made at our second meeting yesterday.
Copies of this statement will now be distributed to members of the media and posted on the Government website and social media platforms for the edification of the people of Fiji.
I thank you all for your time.