Fiji exporters celebrate awards, hail new budget
The Fiji Prime Minister’s Exporters Awards has grown to be one of the most important events in the annual Pacific business calendar. <!--more-->The twenty-third edition of the awards was held at a glittering function at the Sheraton Hotel on Denarau Island in Nadi last Saturday. More than 600 invited guests witnessed the awards ceremonies that were interspersed with creative and engaging presentations by performing artistes’ groups.
[caption id="attachment_7509" align="alignleft" width="450"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/rsz_FJ-Cate.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-7509" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/rsz_FJ-Cate.jpg" alt="Cate Pleass of Pleass Beverages with Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Investment Fiji CEO Godo Mueller-Teut to her right. To her left is award sponsor Bank of Baroda's representative." width="450" height="300" /></a> Cate Pleass of Pleass Beverages with Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Investment Fiji CEO Godo Mueller-Teut to her right. To her left is award sponsor Bank of Baroda's representative.[/caption]
The awards, hosted by Investment Fiji, coincided with the country’s much awaited national budget for 2016, which was announced just the day before. The budget therefore featured prominently in Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s address. Lauding the winners of the awards, the Prime Minister, who is also customarily the chief guest at the annual function, said the past five years had seen a 30 per cent rise in Fijian exports from F$1.6 billion in 2010 to F$2.3 billion last year.
This year’s Westpac Prime Minister's Exporter of the Year Award went to the Lautoka based Tropik Wood Industries, which has achieved great success in exporting wood products to China and across much of the islands region. Executive Chairman Faiz Khan said sheer determination and a great team working in unison were the essential ingredients of the company’s success. Pacific Periscope will publish a detailed interview with Mr Khan in a forthcoming edition.
Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I) was pleased to see a number of the companies it has worked with win export awards these year. One of these was Pleass Beverages, the exporter of the upmarket Vaiwai brand of bottled water, which is making waves in overseas market. The company will open a new plant early next year. The company won the Bank of Baroda Small Exporter of the Year Award.
Also among the awardees was one of Fiji’s most visible beauty products manufacturer and exporter Pure Fiji Export Ltd, which won the Bank of South Pacific Import Substitution Award. Other award winning companies that PT&I has had the privilege to work with were Flour Mills of Fiji (FMF) and United Apparel, both winning recognition awards for their excellent export performance.
Detailing the features of the budget, which he described as being business friendly, the Prime Minister said the Government was creating a climate that would make it possible for Fiji’s private sector companies to increase exports by as much as 50 per cent over the next five years. The stage was set to take the “Fijian Made brand to another level,” he said.
[caption id="attachment_7510" align="alignright" width="450"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/rsz_FJexp-large.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-7510" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/rsz_FJexp-large.jpg" alt="The 2015 Exporter of the Year Award winners pose for a group Photo. (All Photos: Dev Nadkarni)." width="450" height="300" /></a> The 2015 Exporter of the Year Award winners pose for a group Photo. (All Photos: Dev Nadkarni).[/caption]
Budget 2016 had already proposed the reduction of value added tax (VAT) from 15 per cent to 9 per cent, which he said would boost the economy, making food and other essentials cheaper to buy for the lower income earning groups. Mr Bainimarama said this was a “bold” budget and many of its imaginative initiatives were “consolidated by the Government’s performance.”
He said that while several new measures at mopping up increased tax revenue especially from businesses were announced in Budget 2016, these were all aimed at making the tax system fairer to all citizens across income categories and occupations, including the disadvantaged sections of Fijian society. Inviting regional and international businesses to invest in Fiji in the manufacturing and exporting sectors, the Prime Minister said Fiji was building one of the most generous tax systems in the Pacific.
The budget has also proposed a revamp of the civil service administration system, more efficient and stricter tax compliance system especially targeting the business sector including retail and tourism as well as increased investment in infrastructure -- particularly roads and ports – and public health, primary education and welfare.
Business leaders Pacific Periscope spoke to expressed satisfaction at the budget’s many provisions, which many agreed were bold and forward looking.