The European Commissioner for International
Cooperation and Development,
The European Ambassador for the Pacific,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
This is an important day for Fiji and for our relationship with the European Union – the signing of an agreement that provides Fiji with 10-million Euros or 23.4-million Fijian dollars to support our recovery effort in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston.
This allocation is on top of the 28-million Euros - 65.5 million Fijian dollars - already pledged by the EU to Fiji under the National Indicative Program of assistance for sugar and agriculture and improving access to justice. And also on top of the one-million euros or 2.3 million Fijian donated in the immediate aftermath of Winston.
Commissioner, the manner in which the European Union has responded to our needs and assisted us during a very difficult period is deeply appreciated. And I ask you to convey the gratitude of every Fijian to the Commission, your member governments and the people of Europe. The way in which this assistance is being provided is especially appreciated – direct support for our national budget to enable us to set our own priorities and distribute the funding where it is most needed. We are very gratified by the confidence the European Union is showing in our budgetary process and the management of our public finances. You are recognising that the best way to deliver assistance is through a partnership with the Government. And your example is one that we hope our other development partners will emulate.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, this funding is destined to improve the lives of many thousands of Fijians, and especially those in our agricultural sector,including sugar, who have been especially hard hit by Cyclone Winston.
Of the total damage bill to the nation of more than 3 billion Fijian dollars, around 540 million dollars of that is in the agricultural sector, according to our recent Post Disaster Needs Assessment.
On the latest figures, our all up losses in the sugar cane industry add up to 163 million Fijian dollars. The loss of workers’ livelihoods is 53 million dollars. The damage and losses at the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s mills is more than 72 million dollars. Production infrastructure losses are almost 17 million dollars. And a further 19.7 million Fijian dollars has been lost in industry services. So there is no doubting the extent of the challenge faced by the 200,000 Fijians who depend on sugar for their livelihoods or those in other agricultural sectors.
Ever since the cyclone struck on February 20th, the EU has been a reassuring presence by our side, supporting us in the preparation of our Post Disaster Needs Assessment, providing a range of assistance through the Accompanying Measures for Sugar protocol; distributing vegetables, fruit, crops and tree seedlings; realigning projects to help with water, sanitation and hygiene and rural electrification infrastructure; and by supporting the roll-out of a new construction and carpentry training course that will engage selected mill workers and community members.
Through these measures, the people of Europe have extended a firm helping hand to get Fijians back on their feet. And now we have an extra 23.4 million dollars Fijian to take that assistance to another level.
In closing, Commissioner, I want to make special mention of the positive role that has been played by your Ambassador for the Pacific, Andrew Jacobs, and his team in Suva. Vinaka vakalevu to you all for your understanding and support, especially over the past three months.
The quality of our recent engagement underlines the overall quality of our relationship, which has rarely, if ever, been closer in the four decades since we established formal ties with Europe. And we look forward to continuing to strengthen those ties in the months and years ahead.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.