July 30, 2009

Fiji not immune to global crisis

Fiji not immune to global crisis
By Geraldine Panapasa, Thursday, July 30, 2009
THE Pacific, including Fiji, is not immune to the impact of the global economic crisis, says Aus-tralian High Commissioner James Batley. Mr Batley was chief guest at the Fiji Economy Update 2009 presentation at the University of the South Pacific yesterday. The presentation was a co-orperation between the USP's School of Economics, Faculty of Business and Economics, the Crawford School of Economics and government and the Australian National University. "The update is taking place a week ahead of the Pacific Island leaders meeting in Cairns, Australia, and the global economic crisis is likely to be the key issue for discussion," Mr Batley said. "One of the significant issues that leaders will discuss is whether to start negotiation on a new regional trade and economic integration agreement, known as PACER Plus." Mr Batley said trading relationship between Fiji and Australia continued to be a strong one, reflecting the strong link between the two countries. He said Fiji continued to benefit from privileged access to the Australian market under international agreements and arrangements. "Australia has a keen interest in the update as a neighbour who wants to see Fiji fulfill its economic potential." he said.
Mr Batley said the University should continue fulfilling its traditional role of providing space for the free and respectful exchange of ideas and opinions. The Fiji Economic Update 2009 was held at USP Lower Laucala Campus yesterday. Presentations will also be held in Labasa at Hotel Northpole tomorrow.

More poverty around
Thursday, July 30, 2009
THE unemployment rate has been hovering above the 8 per cent mark since 2000, says an academic. The changing of the retirement age from 60 to 55 will increase the number of vacancies. The associate professor of economics at the University of Queensland, Renuka Mahadevan, made the comment while presenting her survey at the 2009 Fiji Economy Update yesterday.
"Along with other factors, increasing unemployment is a likely underlying factor for the consistent decline in Fiji's ranking on the UNDP's human development index," she said. "The index, however, understates the real situation as it excludes gender discrimination, income inequality and more-difficult-to-measure indicators such as respect for human rights and political freedom which have taken a nosedive." She said poverty has worsened three-fold.

Most fuel for energy
By Geraldine Panapasa, Thursday, July 30, 2009
FIJI'S energy sector relies heavily on imported fossil fuel for industrial, domestic, transport and power generation needs, says associate professor of physics Anirudh Singh at the University of the South Pacific. Speaking at the Fiji Economy update 2009 presentation, Mr Singh said a significant part of imported fuel was directed to electrical power generation. "The commercial sector was the heaviest user of electricity accounting for 43 per cent of generated electricity in 2007," he said. "By far, the greatest consumer of imported fuel is industrial distillate using 45.6 per cent of the 808 million litres imported in 2007. "The aviation industry is the next biggest consumer, using 35.5 per cent of the total. "It is followed by road transportation which takes up 17.1 per cent of total fuel imports." Mr Singh said a significant fraction of total energy demand in Fiji was met by biomass energy. He said coconut oil and biofuel derived from it could be used as alternatives to diesel. While the country's non-fossil fuel generation capacity has remained fixed, total energy demand has risen steadily and rising imported fossil fuel costs have placed pressure on Fiji's imports bill. "The best approach to contain or reverse this is to introduce more indigenous sources of energy into the electricity generation system with the obvious one being renewable energy," Mr Singh said. He said reductions in fuel imports will result when the land transport sector begins to switch to bio fuels.

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