Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fiji - liberalisation

Prime Minister Bainimarama - Address at the signing of the Deed of Settlement between Fiji Govt, ATH, FINTEL, Vodafone and TFL


Thurs. 17th January, 2008 Tower 11 RBF Building
11.30 am

The Chairman Amalgamated Telecom Holdings;
The Directors and Management of FINTEL and Vodafone;
Representatives of FNPF;
Ministers of My Cabinet;
Government Officials;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ni sa bula vinaka and a good morning to you all.

Yesterday was a momentous occasion. The National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) met formally for the first time. The NCBBF and the resultant People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress is a vision and now work in progress for building a better Fiji.

A Fiji in which all her citizens will, amongst other things, benefit from a robust and efficient economy, an economy which has a level playing field, an economy which reap benefits for all our citizens by way of access to competitive pricing, access to services and opportunities for sustainable employment.

It is, therefore, only fitting that today we are here to sign a settlement deed that paves the way for a liberalized telecommunications sector.

As demonstrated through other economies a liberalized or de-regulated telecommunications sector has a direct positive impact on GDP. It provides the trajectory to economic growth and increased employment opportunities.

It further through competition makes the industry more attuned to meeting the needs of the consumers.

My government was and is faced with the mammoth challenge of undoing years of bureaucracy, systems, inefficiencies, laws, blatantly wrong decisions and mind sets which are all impediments to making our economy more robust, efficient and investor friendly.

We however have the resolve to do so. We will do so, and today we have done so - in the telecommunications sector.

The signing of the settlement deed today and the issuance of the licences marks the move away from an exclusive environment to one that creates market competition.

It also heralds in new laws and rules which will provide certainty and transparency to all stake holders.

The liberalization will lead to greater net work coverage through out Fiji. Our aim is to ensure that our people in the rural areas and in the islands have access to services enjoyed by those in the towns and cities.

It will lead to competitive prices. We already are seeing the benefits through cheaper and packaged prices offered to our citizens.

It will also have an enormous impact on the cost of doing business. Companies will be able to enjoy the same competitive prices that their overseas counterparts have when making international phone calls.

In this respect we already have a number of overseas operators wanting to set up call centers and invest in the ICT sector. Government has in this year’s Budget provided extremely attractive
tax incentives to those wishing to invest in this sector.

Government will in the next few weeks issue two more mobile telephone licences through a process that has already commenced. It looks forward to the finalization of the bidding process and the subsequent competition and increased services in that sector.

To those opposed to liberalization. You must understand that this government will not engage in deregulation for the sake of it. But it will do so where appropriate and required. Liberalization makes your companies more competitive and forces you to rationalize costs and make your companies more efficient and productive. It will provide better return on shareholders funds. Protection will not necessarily make your companies healthier, or slicker, competition will. Competition will benefit the investor, the consumer and the economy of Fiji.

There are many people who have spent much time, energy, effort and good-will to bring this agreement to fruition. I wish to acknowledge all of them for their perseverance, dedication and commitment. To the management, shareholders and directors in FINTEL, Vodafone, TFL and ATH, you have now embarked on a path that will reap enormous benefits for you, your company and the economy - you are indeed pioneers in making a better Fiji.

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