Momo Levu na Tui Vuda;
The Vanua of Vuda;
The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy;
Our Developers, Josefa Uluivuda and Makelesi Dibau;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
Today we celebrate the great things that Government can do when it partners with the people.
In 2013, we ratified our Constitution which introduced the most powerful protection of iTaukei land in Fijian history. We entrusted every inch of iTaukei land to our landowning communities for all time. That inheritance –– which represents over 90% of land in Fiji –– is the greatest wealth-creating asset in the country.
But anyone who runs a business knows that sometimes it takes money to make money. So, on the foundation of security we built, the Government I lead has supported landowners to maximise their land for their financial benefit and for the security and prosperity of their future generations.
The problem was that many landowning units did not have the upfront capital for major investments to develop their land so that they could lease it out for a high return. This left communities vulnerable to being exploited by outside interests with deep pockets and bad intentions.
Given the strength of the commercial case for subdividing and leasing out land, Government decided we would help communities and ambitious individuals to unlock the capital they needed to develop their land and then get the right rental paid for it. And once that was done, we’d get out of the way and leave landowners with benefits that will pay out for generations.
Today we break ground on such a project through the iTaukei Land Development Grant. This site is the second subdivision project in Vuda and the ninth project in the country. Later today, we will break ground on the tenth project in Tavua.
Since 2015, we’ve already completed works on the first subdivision project in Vuda as well as projects in Yadua and Nasoqela. Not far from here, lots will be leased out. Rentals will be paid. And landowners will be benefitting. Work on similar projects is also underway in Wairebetia, Saweni, Veiseisei, Haravi and Lautoka.
We don’t only empower landowners through these developments. Every lot we subdivide and make available to rent can become a home that can house a Fijian family. Every day we spend developing the land, we employ hard-working people, including many from the local communities. And every project we complete adds to the strength of our economy. And that benefits everyone.
I applaud Josefa and Makelesi for taking this step forward hand-in-hand with national leadership. As we’ve shown once in Vuda already, this ground-breaking is a promise of greatness to come. This simple ceremony stands for partnership, vision, investment and innovation. It is a testament to our practical approach to developing the nation in a manner that empowers all Fijians. And it is an inspiration to all those communities who stand to benefit from following your lead.
From today, we are one step closer to ending the notion of the iTaukei people being “asset rich and cash poor”.
Josefa and Makelesi: you will make yourselves rich by taking this opportunity to make your assets work for you and Fiji. And your children and grand-children will thank you for it.
On the back of the stability we’ve created for the country and the consistency in policies we promise to continue delivering for our people, the best is yet to come. Day by day and development and development, we will continue writing a new story of empowerment, opportunity, and inclusivity for every Fijian.
I congratulate you on your commitment to this project.
Vinaka vakalevu – Thank you.