9:25AM

FIJIAN PRESIDENT HOLDS TALKS WITH MARSHALL ISLANDS PRESIDENT

His Excellency the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau held talks today with the President of the Republic of Marshall Islands His Excellency, Christopher J Loeak in Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands.

Fiji’s Head of State is visiting the Republic of the Marshall Islands as part of the Fijian Government’s commitment to closely engage with her Pacific Island neighbors. This visit is also a response to the growing relations between Fiji and the Republic of Marshall Islands.

During talks, both leaders called for more engagement between the two countries in various areas. It was also an opportunity for the Fijian President to also present a brief on Fiji’s electoral developments.

While in the Marshall Islands, His Excellency the President will take time to visit the Fijian Community living there. He is also expected to meet with senior government officials.

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9:10AM

FIJI AND KOREA TO PROVIDE LOW COST SEWAGE TREATMENT TECHNOLOGIES

Fiji’s Department of Water and Sewerage, in partnership with the Korean Environment Corporation (KECO), will provide a low cost and environment-friendly treatment for sewerage systems in rural areas of Fiji later this year.

Further discussion on this issue is a major part of a two day final workshop on “Low Cost Sewerage Treatment Technologies for Rural Water and Sanitation Schemes”, which began in Lami today.

As he opened the workshop, the Minister for Works, Transport and Public Utilities said today’s meet was a result of a Research Contract Agreement signed between Fiji and KECO on the 17th of December, 2013.

“I would like to acknowledge KECO for the opportunity in collaborating with my ministry in conducting research on a newly improved Sanitation Technology called Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR). This technology should develop a Low Cost and Environmentally friendly treatment for sewerage systems in Fiji which has been researched, trialed and applied successfully in Korea,” Mr Natuva said.

KECO has provided over $7000 for the implementation of a low cost waste water treatment pilot project in rural areas here.

“The introduction of this new technological system in the treatment of Waste Water in Fiji under this Seoul Initiative could reduce the threat of pollution to our water source, and environment and thus improve the health standard of living for our Rural and Urban dwellers,” Minister Natuva said.

He highlighted that the project is designed for capacity building of local staff in the areas of research and training on water and sewerage technology to support Green Growth in Fiji, which is critical for sustainable development.

Mr Natuva also pointed out that sanitation facilities in rural areas had been improving from pit latrines to water seal and septic tanks.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Fiji, His Excellency Mr Seong-in Kim was at the workshop today and said the Green Growth initiative in Fiji will help promote effective environmental policies.

“Since 2008, KECO has conducted 22 pilot projects in 14 countries and this year, it is working in countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka and Fiji. Water pollution and waste dumping has been identified as the threatening cause of environmental damage to Fiji through this project,” H.E Seong-in Kim said.

“Appropriate measures to improve sewage treatment systems and technical developments are essential.”

Director Water and Sewerage, Apisai Ketenilagi said the improved sanitation technology successfully implemented in Korea is currently being trialed at the laboratory here.

“Some laboratory piloting tests are being conducted before it can be trialed in one of the villages in Fiji. These sanitation technology systems are user-friendly, not very complicated, low cost as well as good for effectively and sustainably used in rural communities. The maintenance and operation methods are also simple,” Mr Ketenilagi said.

Close to 40 participants from key stakeholders involved directly in the operation and maintenance of water and wastewater systems and the close monitoring of its effects on the environment are taking part in the workshop.

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9:03AM

MINISTER KUBUABOLA MEETS SENIOR DELEGATE FROM ZHEJIANG PROVINCE, CHINA

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola was paid a courtesy visit by Mr Lu Guohao, the Vice Director-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province from the People’s Republic of China, in Suva this morning.

Discussions were held on a potential Memorandum of Understanding between Zhejiang Province and a sister Province to be selected from Fiji for a cultural and friendship exchange programme. The Vice Director-General discussed the potential for linkage with the Zhejiang Provincial Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

Minister Kubuabola also proposed that China should introduce one of its airlines and have direct flights to Fiji. This will enhance the spirit of cooperation between the two countries and boost tourism from China.

Zhejiang has a long tradition of interacting with foreign countries and they wish to explore opportunities to further enhance relations with Fiji. The province is traditionally known as the "Land of Fish and Rice" and is one of the richest provinces in China. The province, together with cities under its direct jurisdiction, has established friendly relations with 148 provinces, cities, counties in 40 countries.

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8:55AM

FIJI’S FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS SHOW STRONG PERFORMANCE

THE strong performance by statutory financial institutions is creating an enabling environment that allows Government to fund its projects and programmes for 2014.

Finance permanent secretary, Mr Filimoni Waqabaca said the recent announcement by two statutory bodies of earning more revenue for Government was an indication of the state of the Fijian economy.

It is also a reflection of the optimism that is building up and there are strong signals that the steady economic growth will continue in the short to medium term.

This comes as the Reserve Bank of Fiji transferred $39.9m to Government comprising of $31.9m as its profit and $8m representing the re-evaluation reserves account as per RBF Act.

Right on the heels of this announcement, Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority revealed that it has surpassed its first quarter target by $39m and collected a total of $431.13m in income tax, Value Added Tax, custom duties and other taxes.

These developments reflect the economic progress over the years as reflected by the consecutive years of positive economic growth and confidence in the country.

This has also been recognised by multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank.

Mr Waqabaca said all this puts Government in a strong position to financially meet its own targets.

“The Ministry for its part has had a very vigorous first quarter with more than $100 million paid to service both external and domestic loans,” he said.

This was in the form of $66.4m for domestic and $36.3m for external loans that was due for servicing in the first quarter and constitutes to around 37 per cent of the total due cumulative to June, Mr Waqabaca said.

He said bonds floated in the market have raised $101.2m which was 40 percent of the total that needs to be raised in 2014.

Government borrowings are primarily channelled towards revamping the productive capacity of the Fijian economy in terms of infrastructure development mainly intended to unlock depressed regions to ensure economic development and inclusive growth.

RBF Governor, Mr Barry Whiteside said, “The improved profit was achieved in a challenging global environment as the returns on foreign reserves, which are the principal source of income for the Bank, continued to be affected by very low interest rates in our major trading partner economies”.

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9:50AM

FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER ADDRESS STUDENTS’ LOAN SCHEME CONCERNS

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama met more than 100 students and parents this morning to address their concerns regarding the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme commonly known as TELS.

The consultations-style meeting was in response to concerns raised by students and parents on the various processes involved in disbursing funds for students to begin or continue studies under the loan scheme. This included the disbursement of funds for book allowances, the guarantors for students who qualify for student loans and the changing of courses that may affect students’ eligibility for loans.

The Prime Minister was joined by other senior government officials and members of the TELS Board to meet directly with students and their parents. The Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Mr Pio Tikoduadua said the Prime Minister shared the concerns of the students and called for today’s forum to “iron out their issues”.

“The Prime Minister has expressed concern that the issues faced by students needed to be addressed to ensure that their education is not disrupted”, Mr Tikoduadua said. “Education assistance in this year’s national budget is significantly higher than previous years because Government wants to make sure that no child is left behind.”

The positive meeting today between the Prime Minister with the students and their parents was a positive step towards ensuring that students have access to education without any financial difficulties. He highlighted at the meeting that the investments carried out by Government in the education sector was designed to improve the lives of students and to help in the overall development of the nation.

Also present at today’s meet was 62 year old Ranjeet Singh of Bau Road in Nausori. Despite his age, Mr Singh travelled to Suva this morning to meet with the Prime Minister and present concerns regarding his son’s education.

“My son, Satya Jeet Singh completed his diploma in Education from the Fiji National University in 2012 however, due to no place for teaching; he stayed home until 2013 and was under a waiting list. I advised him to complete his degree in Education and apply for the TELS,” Singh said.

Mr Singh said his son is studying for his Bachelor of Education at FNU but his son’s loan was not approved resulting in overdue fees for his course.

“I am so fortunate and proud to meet the PM and he is the first Prime Minister who sat with us and listened to our concerns. I got assurance from him and the board that my son will get the loan approved. I have faith in the PM and I’m glad that finally my son can go ahead with his studies.”

The Tertiary Education Loans Scheme provides low-interest Government loans to any Fijian student who is accepted at one of the tertiary institutions in Fiji covering full tuition costs.

Meanwhile students around the country that require assistance or clarifications regarding the loan scheme are urged to email admin@tslb.com.fj

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