Government of the Republic of Fiji
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
A Better Fiji through Excellence in Foreign Service
2015 BUDGET DEBATE BY THE HONORABLE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, RATU INOKE KUBUABOLA, 3RD DECEMBER, 2014------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Madam Speaker,the Honourable Acting PrimeMinister, the Honorable Ministers,the Hon Leader of the Opposition, and Honorable Members of Parliament;
1. I would like to begin my remarks by acknowledging and thanking the Honorable Minister for Finance for rolling out such a comprehensive and all-inclusive budget. The 2015 Budget speaks clearly and supports our Government’s mission to really make a difference in our national life for the sake of every Fijian.
2. Madam Speaker, foreign policy is one of the most important tools to ensure the steady development of a country and guarantee its competitiveness in this ever enhancing world. In other words, the success of Fiji’s foreign policy directly corresponds to the achievement of Fiji’s domestic priorities. Domestically and internationally, our policies must work in tandem to promote the Ministry’s vision.
3. The theme of this year’s budget “Turning Promises Into Deeds”, speaks volumes of our Government’s promises made to all Fijians during our campaigns. If we are indeed serious about delivering these deeds, we must collectively work together to achieve this through consultation and consensus. Budget 2015 is practical and it captures key issues to enable us to continue along a path to realize and harvest Fiji’s true potential.
4. Madam Speaker, in comparison to other Ministries, we are relatively small in size, however we are prominent in the contribution to put Fiji out on the international arena and mark its presence extensively in the world! Madam Speaker. We are the Ministry that takes Fiji to the world and the Ministry that brings the world to Fiji. 5. Whilst the Government of today is focused on the road to repair its public finances and enhance economic growth, the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to spearhead the formulation and conduct of Fiji’s foreign policy; add to the economic growth of Fiji and support the government’s initiative. The 2015 Budget sees an allocation of $41.8 million to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an increase of $1.6 million from last year -The Ministry is positive that already as a high achieving Ministry, we can definitely tweak our foreign policies for the better and that too with confidence.
6. The Ministry works closely with Investment Fiji to facilitate both local and foreign direct investments in improving Fiji’s economic growth prospects. 7. At this juncture, I am proud to stress that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have established formal diplomatic relations with 164 countries and we, at the Ministry, are extremely committed to extending our relations to the remaining 29 countries of the United Nations family .
Our list of achievements are plenty and time being of the essence, I would like to highlight some of the Ministry’s key achievements over 2 years. 8. Madam Speaker, this year alone, we made international headlines, when 45 of our peacekeepers in Syria were captured by the Al-Nusra Front. I am proud to comment that our diplomatic influence with countries like Qatar was instrumental in the safe release of our troops. For the record, I wish to thank our Mission in Abu Dhabi for facilitating the diplomatic exchanges with my Qatari counterpart. 9. Since 2007, we have worked tirelessly to increase Fiji’s reach and significance in the world. To date, this included the establishment of 7 new overseas missions including South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, Abu Dhabi, South Korea, Geneva and our newest mission in Shanghai China. 10. In June this year, we opened the Fiji Mission in Geneva,beingthe only fully fledged mission from the region, which has established diplomatic presence in Geneva. The establishment of the Geneva mission enables the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to carry out the multitude of work with international organizations (such as specialized UN agencies) in Geneva that are relevant to Fiji’s interest in the areas of health, climate change, ITC, trade, human rights, et cetera . 11. This year our Mission in New Delhi managed to secure a $70 million Line of Credit (LOC) with the Government of India, to help set up co-generation power-plant at Rarawai Sugar Mill- a project and monetary boost to the much needed sugar industry. I stress this, over and beyond the millions of dollars of Overseas Development Aid (ODA) that our 19 missions have raked in into the country. This alone is impressive and commendable. 12. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is proud to have contributed significantly in molding part of exciting history for Fiji. This year, the Fiji Mission in New Delhi was instrumental in bringing to Fiji one of the world’s most brilliant, powerful and charismatic leaders H.E. the Prime Minster of India, Shri Narendra Modi last month and visit by the President of the People’s Republic of China, H.E. Xi Jinping and former President of Indonesia, H. E. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to our Fiji Islands. 13. Madam Speaker, we were honored to have chairmanship of the Group of 77 (G77) in 2013. This continues to be the X factor in the successful pursuit of pillar 11 of the Charter. This is a 133 member developing country bloc of the group of 77 and China. Fiji as chair of G77 played a key role in the increase in the reimbursement rate for Troop Contributing Countries in UN Peacekeeping Operations missions
14. Madam Speaker, we have been allocated a modest budget of $41.8 million dollars. In the quest for transparency and our continued motivation and commitment to serving the people of Fiji, I now make remarks on the allocations.
15. The 2015 budget provides a sum of $1.3millon of which $800 thousand is provided for the operational expenses of the Pacific Islands Development Forum [PIDF] Secretariat, together with a further $500 thousand towards hosting of regional meetings. This will set forth Fiji’s foreign policy intent of being the leader of influence in the Pacific through strategic mutual partnerships with all Pacific island communities and shall be reflected through Pacific Small Island Developing States [PSIDS] as the voice and safety net reflecting the views of the ordinary Pacific Islander from groups of all tiers. 16. Madam Speaker, as part of Fiji’s regional obligations, the Ministry also welcomes a sum of $400 thousand provided for the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meetings that are planned for 2015. Fiji’s continuing engagement and active participation within the MSG has seen the Group taking on a prominent role in the affairs of not only the Melanesian sub-region, but the wider Pacific region as well. 2014, is the take-off year of the “MSG 2038 – Prosperity for All” Plan in Melanesia. This captures our leader’s vision and aspiration to achieve stronger economic integration, and we hope that it will ultimately result in increased economic growth and welfare of improvements for the people of MSG sub region and the entire Pacific region.
17. Madam Speaker, I also welcome the changes in taxes and duties, especially the import duty charges to protect the local industry. Following the successful elections, the new political climate has heightened investor confidence. With respect to safeguarding Fiji’s trade and economic relations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will contribute towards providing state support to Fijian enterprises and companies. It will assist with securing access to new markets and in development of traditional ones. 18. I also note with appreciation the funding of $2 million for Disaster Risk and Climate Change Mitigation. My Ministry runs Fiji’s Climate Change Division and through the Climate Change Division, my Ministry shall continue to advocate for global actions on climate change through International mechanisms such as UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) etc, and continued scientific research to combat Climate change regionally and internationally. 19. Madam Speaker, this is a very critical year in the climate change fraternity. As we speak, Government representatives, civil society and non-governmental organizations from all over the world are meeting in Lima, Peru to discuss the 2015 Climate Change Agreement that will be a successor to Kyoto Protocol.Fiji is also represented in that Conference of Parties (COP 20) meeting in Peru proudly headed by the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs 20. Madam Speaker. recognizing that we are responsible for own development and in the pursuit of Fiji’s foreign policy goals, my Ministry is continuously committed to achieving its national, regional and international priority goals and objectives. We envisage achieving this, through a fresh approach, concentrating on new emerging and high growth markets, yet maintaining our focus on our existent mature markets. 21. The major guiding document for Fiji’s foreign policy, the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development expires at the end of this year. The Ministry pledges to conform a new Foreign Policy Statement that is aligned with our vision, mission and goes to the heart and purpose of our existence. The Statement will outline the key elements of the Ministry’s stance on the promotion of political and diplomatic relations, enhancing trade, investment and other economic relations, and collaboration on key global issues for a better Fiji.
22. Madam Speaker, Fiji is equally determined to continue to strengthen its leadership role in the region. In 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in accordance with its mandate will continue to focus on strengthening such leadership role through the PIDF and PSIDS.
23. Madam Speaker, peace and political stability in our region and internationally will remain a priority. I favorably note the budget allocation of $72.6 million towards Fiji’s Peacekeeping Missions and this further enhances Fiji’s foreign policy directive to support UN peacekeeping operations. We are committed to maintaining security, promoting peace and stability in the ambit of our UN Charter. Putting aside the monetary considerations, our nation proudly accepts these challenges and commits to meaningful and significant contribution to promoting goodwill, peace and stability in troubled nations.
24. Madam Speaker, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its Fiji Missions and Consular offices, will continue to vigorously market with private sector to capitalize on niche export market opportunities in non-traditional markets in Asia, North America and the Middle-East. 25. Madam Speaker, a lot has been said about this budget. While it is impossible to fulfill everyone’s shopping list, we acknowledge that meeting the necessity of the country is a priority. We must realize that is it only through this budget we will be able to fulfill the promises made to the Fijian people. 26. Today, our country finds itself in a position of responsibility as a member of the international community. We are constantly reminded when we are invited to forums, that we are looked upon as leaders in the region, and it is my commitment to Fiji, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, that the Ministry will continue to influence and forge strategic mutual partnerships with all Pacific Island Communities. It is my pledge to continue promoting Fiji in our South Pacific Region and to the rest of the world, as a country of choice in economic trade, investment and preference. 27. This year’s Budget is a positive aspect for Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As the Minister of Foreign affairs, you have my commitment to stay focused on the areas I have outlaid. It is my pledge, that from this small Ministry, I hope to bring to you some movers and shakers, who are dedicated to successful achievement of the Ministry’s and the Government of Fiji’s vision, mission and purpose of continued global presence, economic growth, prosperity, research and development and as a country of people’s choice. 28. With that Madam Speaker, I hereby commend the 2015 Budget for the endorsement of this August Chamber.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs P. O. Box 2220 Government Buildings Suva, Fiji