Government of Fiji Support for Tropical Cyclone Judy and Kevin Response in Vanuatu
Cabinet approved Fiji’s proposed support package to assist the Government of Vanuatu in its on-going response efforts towards TC Judy and Kevin.

Fiji will send 38 RFMF personnel including engineers and medical experts, a 12 – member Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) team, and 5 Fiji NDMO officials to coordinate the support for Fiji.

Food rations and water is also part of Fiji’s support package with the severe damage to farms and fresh water sources in Vanuatu.

Fiji’s support is being complemented by the Government of New Zealand and Fiji Water.

Subsidiary Arrangement between Ministry of Health and Medical Services and Korea International Cooperation Agency on the Establishment of the Fiji National Rehabilitation Centre
Cabinet approved the Subsidiary Arrangement (Arrangement) with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) for the project on the “Establishment of the Fiji National Rehabilitation Centre” (Project).

The Fiji Rehabilitation Centre (Old Rehabilitation Center), located within the Tamavua Twomey Hospital, was assessed by the relevant authorities from the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations and declared an occupational health and safety (OHS) non-compliant facility due to the building condition being very old, unmaintained over decades and past its expiry date.

In 2021, the Ministry and KOICA agreed to collaborate and work together on the Project to improve the quality and quantity of rehabilitation medical services, and access for the vulnerable population.

Further discussions with KOICA culminated in the submission of an application by the Ministry to the Korean Government for bilateral funding support for the Project.

As per the Arrangement, the Korean Government, through KOICA, will provide grant in aid of no more than USD 10,000,000.

The Ministry as part of its contribution to this Project, commits to providing the initial operational cost to demolish the Old Rehabilitation Center, which is situated along Princess Road, the cost for site preparation, including the relocation cost of moving the current health services of the Old Rehabilitation Center to the Tamavua Twomey Hospital, and facilitating other administrative measures for the design and construction of the building.

The Project is expected to commence this year.

Establishment of the Diplomatic Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany, in Fiji
Cabinet agreed to the establishment of the first Diplomatic Mission of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany in Fiji.

Fiji and Germany have maintained diplomatic relations since 1 August 1973. Germany does not have an embassy in Fiji but is currently represented by its Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, and has an honorary consul in Fiji.

Germany supports Fiji’s development through EU projects in critical areas such as climate change adaption, disaster risk reduction, sustainable rural livelihoods, public administration reform and governance, gender and human rights, infrastructure, education and vocational training, as well as health.

The establishment of the German Diplomatic Mission in Fiji will allow for greater cooperation on business opportunities and investments in both countries and encourage greater people to people cooperation through education opportunities in Germany and the European region.

Update on the Fiji Government Information Technology & Computing Services
Cabinet deliberated on the way forward in regards to the roles, services provided, upgrade and challenges of the Department of Information Technology and Computing Services (ITCS), and agreed that the Ministry of Communications explore the option of a comprehensive review of the Government ITCS Department.

ITCS, formerly known as the Electronic Data Processing Centre (EDPC) was established in 1966. The role of EDPC expanded significantly in 2000, to include policy advice on Information Technology Services. The EDPC evolved into the Government IT Bureau Service and by that time users were connected to the internet services, leading to the organisation being renamed as ITCS.

The field of information technology has continued to evolve, and ITCS’s role and responsibilities have grown accordingly. In 2006, ITCS implemented the e-Government Programme, which was just one example of the organisation’s ongoing expansion and development. The Reform of Information Technology and Computing Services Act 2013 (Act) established a Steering Committee (Committee) to manage the administration of ITCS.

The Act provides the roles and responsibilities of the Committee which also includes all ICT procurement across Government.

In addition, there are various Government ICT policies in-place providing guidance to all Government network (GOVNET) users. ITCS has evolved to its current structure and centrally manages the whole of Government ICT activities. Managing a massive network such as GOVNET, which encompasses approximately 8,000 users, poses a significant challenge.

A comprehensive review is, therefore, critical to ensuring that Government services are delivered efficiently and effectively to citizens while also safeguarding sensitive data and information.

The Ministry of Communications will liaise with the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance and the Solicitor – General’s Office on a possible review involving a thorough assessment of the existing infrastructure and technology systems that support the delivery of Government services.

Business Reforms to Improve Business Process
Cabinet endorsed the rebranding of bizFIJI 2.0 to ‘business now FIJI’, under the Ease of Doing Business Reforms.

The bizFIJI portal was introduced in 2019 under the Ease of Doing Business Reform project. It aimed to provide domestic and foreign investors information on starting a business, construction permits, paying taxes, to name a few, on one digital platform. It provides links to key Government e-services and is regularly updated.

The next phase of the Ease of Doing Business Reform project is to establish an online integration portal for approval processes for Starting a Business and Construction Permits.

It is a combined effort of all approval agencies related to the processes of getting a business started and approval to construct, hence, constitutes a “Whole of Government” approach. The portal will digitise the business operations and development, providing easy and one-stop online presence. It is engineered towards delivery of quality service in a time and cost effective manner, by the approval agencies to boost the growth of the economy and ease business processes through digital transformation.

This next phase will now be rebranded as ‘business now FIJI’.

The rebranding signifies the importance of investment and further emphasises the need to remove bottlenecks in doing business in Fiji in terms of the current initiative.

Initiative for Climate Action Transparency Fiji Project
Cabinet endorsed the project deliverables under the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) project.

ICAT was founded in 2015 by a set of donor partner namely the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and the German and Italian Ministry for the Environment and the Climate Works Foundation.

ICAT aims to finance and work with countries to build domestic capacity so that they can develop and enhance their GHG inventories and assess the impact of their climate policies and actions.

The Fiji ICAT Project was launched by Climate Change Division on 28 November 2021 and was jointly implemented by UNOPS and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Although Fiji contributes almost insignificantly to total world GHG emissions, the country has always advocated for urgent response and committed to do its part in the global fight to combat climate change.

Fiji’s main GHG emission source is carbon dioxide coming from the energy sector hence most of Fiji’s mitigation effort is focused on renewable energy and often overlooks the agriculture sector. Agriculture is the second largest emitting sector and the highest source of methane emissions in the country. Methane emission in the sector largely comes from livestock farming and rice cultivation.

At present, the Ministry of Agriculture lacks a database and internal capacity for collecting, analysing and reporting GHG data. There are also no current climate change mitigation policies in place associated with the agriculture sector. It is also important to note that past national communication reports have been prepared by external consultants due to the lack of in country capacity.

This has led to inconsistencies in each submission and no institutional knowledge developed and retained within the Fiji Government, at least for the agriculture sector.

The Ministry of Agriculture expressed its interest in filling this gap and together with the Climate Change Division, approached the ICAT Secretariat for support to strengthen Fiji’s agricultural GHG inventory and build national capacity in doing so. Fiji was selected to receive the ICAT support in March 2020.

Through this project, ICAT has supported the Fiji Government to develop and establish an overarching institutional arrangement for the Ministry of Agriculture to effectively monitor, verify and report agricultural livestock and rice cultivation GHG emissions.

As a result, the following deliverables have been completed under the project: The Guidance Document and Manual for the Fiji Agriculture Livestock and Rice Cultivation; The Agriculture Policy Assessment for Fiji; and The National Inventory Systems Guideline.

The project had a total budget of USD $168,998 from which USD $86,530.27 has been utilised. The remaining unspent budget will be used to support capacity development of the agricultural data collection officers in a potential second phase of the project.

Project Cooperation Agreement-Technology Needs Assessment Project
Cabinet approved the execution of the new Project Cooperation Agreement (new PCA) to be executed between the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Office of the Prime Minister on behalf of the Fiji Government.

Before investing in climate technologies, it is important to first assess a country’s specific needs. Once these needs are known, countries can then identify and prioritise the right climate technologies. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) supports developing countries to do this through a long-standing process called Technology Needs Assessment (TNA). TNAs are a set of activities that developing countries undertake to identify and determine their technology pri­orities for mitigating and adapting to climate change based on their domestic capacity and circumstances.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition of the name and structural change of UNEP DTU to UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre, the TNA project activities were halted throughout 2022 and now, a new PCA between UNOPS and the Fiji Government is to be signed to allow for completion of the pending deliverables under the project. There are no financial implications to the Fiji Government. Under the new PCA, a total of USD $4,000.00 will be provided for consultation workshops, working sessions, audit and consumables costs. Payment to consultants under the project is directly managed by UNOPS.

Standard Operating Procedure for Planned Relocation In Fiji
Cabinet approved the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Planned Relocation in Fiji.

Cabinet had endorsed Fiji’s Planned Relocation Guidelines (PRG) in 2018.

The PRG outlines the overarching guidance for the Government of Fiji and other stakeholders on how planned relocation should be considered in relation to disasters and climate change related slow-onset events in Fiji.

The PRG also identifies the need for an SOP to represent the modus operandi or method of procedure for the guidelines. The SOP was thus developed within the framework of the PRG responding to the requirements of the Climate Change Act 2021 whereby it lays out specific processes to be undertaken for the planned relocation of at-risk communities in Fiji.

The following principles are mainstreamed in all stages of the SOP:
-A human-centred approach;
-Human rights approach;
-Participatory and inclusive processes;
-Pre-emptive actions;
-Gender-equality, disability and social inclusion (GEDSI); and
-Protection of the rights of children; and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

The SOP ensures that prior informed community consent is obtained for all important decisions that need to be made at each stage of the process.

Along with the SOP, a Climate Relocation of Communities Trust Fund (CROC trust fund) was established and launched in 2020, through the Climate Relocation of Communities Act 2019. The objective of the trust fund is to finance “the planned relocation of communities in Fiji, adversely affected by climate change”. It provides a dedicated source of funds to address the complex operations involved in planned relocation and supports urgent social protection objectives and outcomes critical to increasing community resilience to climate change. The trust fund is seed-funded by 3% of revenue from the Environment and Climate Levy (ECAL) and is expected to derive additional finance from a variety of sources, such as bilateral donor support.

Following the establishment of the CROC trust fund, a Financial Management Policy Guidelines (FMPG) for the PRG was also established to ensure that the trust fund is maintained and accessed in a way that is consistent with the demands and needs of the PRG, the SOP, and compliant with the standard requirements set out by the Financial Management Act. The FMPG provides a set of specific guidelines for the operation of the trust fund.

Public Private Partnership for Affordable Housing Project
Cabinet approved the future developments of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Affordable Housing Project (Project).

In 2019, Cabinet had agreed that Government pursue PPP for an affordable housing project. Subsequently, a Financial Advisory Services Agreement (FAS Agreement) was signed with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to engage IFC as the lead advisor for the PPP Project.

Six sites have been selected for the PPP Project.

Four sites are from the Central Division and two from the Western Division. The sites are in Raiwaqa, Nepani, Wainibuku, Davuilevu, Tavubuku and Tavua.

The intention is to develop affordable housing units (AHUs) on the selected sites with private sector participation or on a PPP model, where a private developer shall design, build, finance, transfer and maintain the AHUs.

The Ministry of Finance will closely monitor the Project progress and provide regular updates to the ministries of Housing, and Local Government.

Change in Retirement Age For Municipal Councils
Cabinet approved that appropriate legislative amendments be made to change the retirement age of Municipal Council employees from 55 to 60 years.

Currently, the retirement age for employees in the Municipal Councils is 55 years.

With the Coalition Government’s policy to change the retirement age for civil service to 60 years, it is important that a similar initiative is reflected in the Local Government Act.

The Ministry of Local Government will be making the necessary legislative amendments in the coming few weeks.

Memorandum of Understanding on Sports Cooperation between the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Fiji and the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of the Republic of Cuba
Cabinet approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of the Republic of Cuba (Cuba).

The MOU is aimed at strengthening partnership between the two countries, ensuring that local sports potential is realised and Fiji succeeds in areas of physical education and sports.

The MOU will be effective for a period of five years from the date of signing, and maybe renewed or extended upon the consent of the parties in writing.

All activities undertaken under the MOU shall be undertaken subject to availability of funds and personnel. Each party will fund their own activities under the MOU.

Direct Funding Arrangement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Fiji for the Fiji Cyclone Recovery Programme
Cabinet approved an amendment to the Direct Funding Arrangement between the Government of Australia (Australian Government) and the Government of the Republic of Fiji (Government) to facilitate additional funding support of AUD 10.00 million (approximately FJD 15.40 million) for the Fiji Cyclone Recovery Programme.

On 11 June 2021, the Government entered into a Direct Funding Arrangement with the Australian Government for a sum of AUD 12.50 million (equivalent to FJD 19.50 million) to support the Fiji Cyclone Recovery Programme.

Subsequently, two additional amendments were made to the Arrangement in 2022, increasing the total funding support for the Programme to AUD 18.50 million (equivalent to FJD 28.70 million).

The additional funding of AUD 10.00 million will increase total funding support for the Programme to AUD 28.50 million (equivalent to FJD 44.10 million).

The Recovery Programme includes the rehabilitation of nine schools, namely Lekutu Secondary School, Lekutu District School, Nukubulu Primary School, Maramarua District School, Dreketi District School, Bua District School, Dama District School, Waulevu West District School, Ratu Luke Memorial School and, two health facilities, namely the Taveuni health centre and Kadavu health centre.

Tourism Guideline – Fiji Code of Conduct for Tourism Service Providers

Cabinet has approved that the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation implement the Fiji Code of Conduct for Tourism Service Providers.

The Code of Conduct is the first national tourism guideline for Fiji established to address the need for higher standards of service for tourism operators, especially when engaging with clients, other businesses and host communities in their daily business operations.

The key objectives of the Code of Conduct are to:

  • -provide a benchmark in terms of the expected ethical conduct of service providers when interacting with visitors, other businesses, host communities, employees and the environment;
-ensure that tourism service providers conduct activities in harmony with respect to the laws and regulations of public authorities while maintaining standards; encourage a safe, fair and competitive market; and
-safeguard the integrity of the tourism industry and the image of Fiji as a tourism destination.

The Code of Conduct will be available as a national guideline that can be implemented on a voluntary basis by any tourism service provider without any legal obligation. The Code of Conduct will be reviewed after 5 years in consultation with key stakeholders.

Establishment of Formal Diplomatic Relations with Niue
Cabinet approved the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with the Government Niue.

Niue wished to establish formal diplomatic relations with Fiji due to Fiji’s strategic location as a regional hub of trade, travel, finance, telecommunications and multilateral one-stop shop with the centralisation of regional and international organisations in Suva, Fiji.

Fiji and Niue have worked closely as Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) on Climate Change and the UNCLOS.

Transport Assistance for School Students – Formalisation of Combined Household Income Eligibility Criteria

Cabinet agreed that the eligibility criteria for application for Transport Assistance to students remain at a combined household income of $16,000.

The criteria for eligibility for application for Transport Assistance to students in 2010 was capped at $15,000 to align to the income tax threshold during that year. The combined household income eligibility criteria for the programme was increased from $15,000 to $15,600 in 2015 and to $16,000 in 2019.

The change in the eligibility criteria to qualify for the Transport Assistance to $16,000 has allowed more families to receive the assistance in the form of free bus fare.

Amendment to the Grant Agreement between the Asian Development Bank and the Government of the Republic of Fiji for Enhancing COVID-19 Preparedness for Tourism Recovery Project
Cabinet approved an amendment to the Grant Agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for Enhancing COVID-19 Preparedness for Tourism Recovery Project to expand the scope of the Project to allow goods and equipment procured under the Project to be provided to both the Nadi International Airport and Nausori International Airport.

The Project commenced in 2022 and presented an opportunity to strengthen Fiji’s capacity to safely reopen to tourists and rebuild the country’s economy following the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Project is estimated to cost US$3.27 million to finance civil works, goods and consulting services and contingencies. It included retrofitting an existing overflow lounge to construct a new boarding gate and lounge, retrofitting unused office space to construct an airside isolation room, procuring equipment for prevention and control of infection and the construction of a testing facility and procurement of automated RT-PCR test machines and associated lab equipment and consumables.

Under the amendment, the scope of the Project is amended to finance stowable covered passenger walkways at Nausori International Airport to address overcrowding in immigration and the need for passengers to line up outside the terminal to observe social distancing. This was only applicable for Nadi International Airport in the initial agreement.

The Project is expected to be completed by 30 September 2023.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
Cabinet agreed that Fiji adopt an official position of support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007.

UNDRIP is the most comprehensive instrument outlining the rights of indigenous peoples in international law and policy. It sets minimum standards for the recognition, protection and promotion of these rights.

Although UNDRIP is non-binding, it represents the dynamic development of international legal norms and sets the standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples.

Aligning Fiji to UNDRIP will ensure that the rights of Fiji’s indigenous people are again safeguarded and protected.

Indigenous rights as a category of human rights are inherent, inalienable and indivisible.

Inherent in the sense that they attach to an indigenous person or native by virtue of their origin and belonging to an indigenous group.

Inalienable in the sense that indigenous rights cannot be legislated or taken away – the rights belong to a native regardless of a law that may be passed. Neither can a native “give up” or “give away” his or her indigenous right.

And “Indivisible” in the sense that indigenous rights are equal to all other categories or rights. Indigenous Rights are not inferior or superior to other human rights, because all human rights are equal.

Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Forestry and the University of the South Pacific
Cabinet approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Forestry (Ministry) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) for collaboration and support in the development of cooperation in the field of forestry, relating to scientific, technological, training, environmental aspects and expertise.

The Ministry is seeking a close collaborative relationship with universities such as USP to enable the Ministry to formally advise USP of the knowledge and skills gaps of the Forestry Sector so that the university may help bridge the gaps.

The Ministry also seeks stronger collaboration with universities such as USP to encourage the Research and Development Divisions of the Ministry to pursue more applied research technologies and publish more research reports so that more knowledgeable better qualified staff would be able to effectively contribute to the Strategic Development Goals of the Ministry and the Government.

Through a partnership with USP, the Ministry can also benefit from the use of research facilities, equipment, and also have access to the latest technology in forest mapping, monitoring, surveillance and risk management, which would enhance current efforts to develop national sustainable forest management.

A similar opportunity is currently being discussed with the Fiji National University.

Memorandum of Understanding on Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Plus 2023 – 2024
Cabinet endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the sum of USD 130,000 (equivalent to approximately FJD 276,907), for the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) Plus 2023-2024 (Project).

MICS was previously conducted in Fiji in 2021. It was the first MICS conducted in the country, in collaboration with other Government Ministries and with technical assistance from UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Pacific Communities (SPC).

Among other topics, the FIJI MICS collected data on health, nutrition, child protection, education, learning skills of children, early childhood development, water, sanitation and hygiene.

MICS Plus 2023-2024 is a follow-up of MICS 2021 for the participants who had consented to be contacted for the subsequent surveys.

The follow-up will be conducted this year through a 15-minute telephone interview where short questions will be asked to collect real-time data for immediate dissemination, and a separate report will be produced.

The MOU between FBoS and UNICEF Pacific is to pilot the use of phones for regular collection of information on living conditions of households, including women and children.

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