Bula Vinaka and good afternoon to you all.
We have been very busy in Fiji rebuilding our infrastructure. We are rebuilding it to be stronger, to withstand the violent storms we have been experiencing, and the raging waters they often bring.
But we are not just defending ourselves against a more threatening climate, we are also giving the Fijian people the kind of infrastructure they deserve and need. Yes, we are building back better, as we like to say, but it is just as important to know that we are growing, we are creating better transportation networks that free our people to do business, to go to school, and to travel safely while they take care of the things we all must do every day and every week.
That is what we are doing here. We have had a bridge here for many years, but it was one lane, which made it dangerous at times and inconvenient at other times. It was old, which meant that it could be swept away with the next storm and strand the good people who depend on it. No more.
This new bridge will directly serve more than 5,000 people in the Namata District as well as the people of Maumi Village and the settlements at Vusuya and Korociriciri. It will allow you freer access to other parts of Viti Levu. But that is just the beginning.
The public whose departed loved ones are at the Raralevu Cemetery will find it easier to make their visits. The Water Authority of Fiji will have better access to Raralevu Reservoir. The Police at the Vusuya-Raralevu Police Post will be able to respond to emergencies more quickly. The children who attend the two local Primary Schools will be able to walk to school more safely, and the Vusuya Bus company and the vehicles serving the Hanson Supermarket Warehouse will circulate more efficiently. And, of course, the bridge also provides access to the King’s Road.
So by serving this community with this new bridge, we also put one more piece in place for a modern, efficient and resilient infrastructure that serves the entire country. This bridge, which cost nearly $4 Million to build, is one of several we have built and are building as part of a resilient road network. We are currently building or will soon begin building nine more bridges at a cost of nearly $52 Million.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you know, the first COVID vaccines have arrived in Fiji, and we can now foresee that day in the near future when we return to normal and reopen our borders.
Throughout this terrible ordeal, we have attempted to keep our economy as strong as possible. We have relied on each other. We have contained the virus. And we have continued to build. We could not be passive in the face of this emergency. We could not stop working, stop building and stop striving while we waited for the pandemic to pass. And when our economy starts accelerating again, it will have the benefit of an infrastructure that was better, stronger, more efficient and more resilient than it was when the COVID virus tried to defeat us.
This bridge is a part of that. It is only one bridge in a rural area. But it will make your lives better. And it will help make Fiji a better, stronger country.
Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.