Thirty years of NZ-Fiji Business Councils

The New Zealand Fiji Business Council (NZFBC) is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year. To mark the occasion the NZFBC and its reciprocal Fiji-based organisation, the Fiji New Zealand Business Council held a daylong event in Auckland on June 15. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, Fiji’s Minister of Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands & Mineral Resources was the chief guest at the conference.   The event titled ‘Stronger Relations Stronger Nations’ was spread across four sessions including the plenary; Current Business Environment; Opportunities and Drivers of Growth. Chairmen of the two councils Chandar Sen (NZFBC) and Craig Strong (FNZBC) welcomed participants at the joint thirtieth annual meeting and conference. Todd Muller, New Zealand Member of Parliament and Chairperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade addressed the meeting just before chief guest Mr Koya’s speech.

Speakers at the sessions were drawn from a cross section of industry, banking and government. PTI’s Chief Investment Officer Manuel Valdez and Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong attended the conference. PTI is a member of the NZFBC.

The Reserve Bank of Fiji’s Chief Manager of Economic Caroline Waqabaca articulated Fiji’s strong growth in the recent past despite the economic turbulence in the Pacific region and natural catastrophes such as Cyclone Winston.  She said improved global growth had significantly influenced the growth of the Pacific region overall, particularly Fiji. Fiji’s trading with Australia and New Zealand had also considerably improved and Fiji’s growth was propelled particularly from the services sector, she added. The service sector is the lifeline of the economy, although the primary sector has a huge potential, Ms Waqabaca pointed out.

In 2017, the Fijian economy is forecast to record an unprecedented eight years of consecutive positive growth post-independence.  The economy is projected to grow by 3.8 per cent this year, slightly higher than last year’s growth of 3.6 per cent.

According to the statistics presented, new vehicle registrations increased annually 16.5 per cent in the recent past. Commercial banks’ new bank lending for consumption purposes increased annually by 10.3 per cent. Investment spending also continued to be broadly upbeat in the reviewed period, as new investment related to lending by commercial banks expanded compared a year ago.

Speaking to Pacific Periscope after the event, Mr Valdez said, “It is worth noting that aggregate demand indicators have remained generally positive in the recent months.”

However, while the overall outlook remains optimistic, in terms of sectoral performances, the latest outcomes have been mixed. The first-four months of 2017 was a consumer-led growth of 6.0 per cent and electricity consumption grew by 8.3 per cent. Tourist arrivals rose over the year by 7.2 per cent, backed by higher arrivals from the US, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Australia.  Chinese tourist arrivals are also growing faster over the past few years.

Ms. Waqabaca also said inflation fell to 4.1 per cent in April 2017 from 5.6 percent in March, after remaining above the 5.0 per cent mark in the first quarter of this year.  However, inflation was still high compared to the trend in the past few years. Foreign reserves rose in April to $2.1 million from $1.97 million in March, sufficient to cover 5.1 months’ worth of imports.

Overall, she described the Fijian economy as vibrant, poised for a positive economic growth in the next eight years by a consumption-led economy, tourism with foreign reserves remaining relatively high. The services sector is upbeat, tourism receipts and investments are favourably higher than expected level for 2017, she added.

“Kiwi businesspeople are relatively confident about taking advantage of the favourable economic performance and stable economic policy to attract foreign investment into the country,” Mr Manuel said.

Other presentations on economics and finance came from the Asian Development Bank and ANZ Bank. The session on ‘Opportunities’ saw presentations on land in Fiji, climate change resilience and ease of doing business while the session of ‘Growth Drivers’ heard from the Information and Communications Technology, Tourism and Manufacturing sectors.

PTI Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong said, “It was a pleasure to attend such a well organised conference which provided a wide range of interesting speakers and a great opportunity to network with our friends from Fiji.

“Memorable for me was the Reid technology Solar electricity generation presentation which could provide opportunities for businesses to both reduce their energy costs and improve continuity of supply supporting economic development in the Pacific.”

For more information, email Manuel Valdez, PTI Chief Investment Officer at manuel.v@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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