Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The way forward for Qarase

The way forward for Qarase

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Laisenia Qarase believes the interim Government has conveniently forgotten that Fiji has a genuine and legal Peoples Charter+ Enlarge this image

Laisenia Qarase believes the interim Government has conveniently forgotten that Fiji has a genuine and legal Peoples Charter

A GREAT deal of money, effort and resources are being poured into the work of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) and drafting of the proposed People's Charter.

At a time when the country is in the middle of a constitutional, political and economic crisis, which is causing great suffering among the people, the interim Government is devoting most of its energy to the NCBBF and the charter.

Everything seems to be secondary while conditions in the country continue to deteriorate.

Never mind that the NCBBF and the charter concept are being rejected by large sections of the population and will, therefore, lack popular legitimacy, without wide public approval, the charter is doomed.

The interim Government has conveniently forgotten that Fiji has a genuine and legal People's Charter.

It is called the Fiji Government's Strategic Development Plan (SDP) which covers the period from 2007 to 2011.

The plan is still in existence.

The charter proposed by the interim Government is, therefore, redundant and a huge waste of public funds.

The NCBBF is duplicating work already carried out for the drafting and implementation of the SDP.

The SDP was the product of a democratically elected government.

It represents the combined vision and ideas of many people and organisations that took part in the extensive consultation and drafting which led to the preparation of the final document.

The process was a true and legitimate exercise in democracy built on a partnership between the community and Government.

The plan was endorsed at a national economic summit at the end of September 2006 and was given approval by Cabinet and Parliament.

It has special significance because it expresses the united views of the SDL Party and the Fiji Labour Party, through the multi-party government formed after the May 2006 election.

It draws extensively on the manifesto of both parties and consensus reached with the Labour party on issues of national importance for the achievement of a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Fiji.

The plan includes policies and goals covering the national spectrum, including national unity and identity, constitutional changes, social, cultural and economic reform and good governance.

Its scope is broad enough to include consideration of important issues such as changes to the electoral system.

A key governance aim is to improve Fiji's ranking in Transparency International's corruption index perception index. We were focussed on moving Fiji upward from its 55th position among a survey that covered 159 countries.

A report by the Commonwealth business council has classified Fiji as one of the best five performers in 2005 for introducing measures to reduce and eliminate corruption.

The assessment was based on a survey of 32 Commonwealth countries.

Fiji was rated number 4 for the level with New Zealand for having balanced and effective business regulation.

Fiji also did well in ratings for government-business relations, free media, effective government, efficient administration and future outlook.

The SDP would have accelerated Fiji's progress in the crucial areas of national life administration. The emergence after the election of 2006 of co-operative multi-ethnic government and the public goodwill it generated, positioned Fiji for an epoch of positive change.

This would have consolidated and built on the considerable progress we had made in rebuilding Fiji after the crisis of 2000.

We started the restoration of damaged relationships and achieved significant economic growth.

The workforce was expanding and wages were increasing.

The SDP, as the joint initiative of the SDL and the Fiji Labour Party in Cabinet is the vehicle to help take us further along the road of development and growth which would narrow the social and economic gaps between our communities.

The SDP stresses that achieving peace and security is a long-term commitment that must be vigorously pursued through building understanding among leaders and communities at all levels.

It emphasises the Government's responsibility of achieving prosperity for Fiji's poorest, most disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens.

The strategies in the plan for higher and sustainable economic growth will create additional jobs and increasing income urgently needed to help us lift more people out of poverty.

This growth will produce additional revenue for the Government which could be channelled into development and amenities and services such as roads, water, electricity and health centres.

The plan proposes measures to boost investment.

It recognises that without this, Fiji will not be able to provide enough employment for young people and those who are without work.

The plan includes Fiji's first integrated export strategy directed toward increasing foreign earnings which would sustain growth.

It has proposals for lifting efficiency, enhancing ethical values and professional standards and cutting costs in the public service and public sector.

This would have raised accountability and transparency at all levels and created a cost-effective investor-friendly and service oriented environment.

The SDP is underpinned by the compact chapter of the Constitution that lays out principles for the conduct of government.

These principles rate, among other things to individual community and groups rights, equality, politics, free and fair elections, formation of governments, conflict resolution and affirmative action and social justice for all disadvantaged citizens or groups.

It calls for equitable sharing of political, economic and commercial power to ensure that all communities fully benefit from the nation's economic progress.

In trying to reinvent the wheel, the interim Government is ignoring what already exists and is creating further division in an already polarised community.

The best way forward is for a process of political dialogue to take place between the main political parties and the interim Government.

The purpose of this would be to find common ground for the country to return to democracy and parliamentary rule.

And there has to be solutions for some of the other problems which must be addressed if we are to secure peace, certainty and stability in this nation of ours and for our future generations.

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