The Chairman and CEO of Tappoo Limited and the rest of the Tappoo family;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
This grand opening has certainly been a long time coming. When this new TappooCity opened last year, my Government was in the midst of our preparations to assume global leadership on two great challenges facing the planet, so I hope you can forgive that we’ve had to move this celebration into 2018.
Last year was certainly a landmark year for Fiji, as we led the world as co-chair of the first-ever UN Conference on Oceans and as President of the UN negotiations on climate change, COP23. Together, alongside the nations of the world, we made great progress securing a brighter future for every Fijian, every Pacific Islander and citizens from every vulnerable nation on earth – and I’d like to thank Kanti for his kind words, along with the many thousands of Fijians who supported us and prayed for our success on the global stage.
Of course, here at home we continued to bring unprecedented development into the lives of the Fijian people, supported by eight straight years of economic growth. And among that slate of development was this brand new, $30 million TappooCity project.
Our management of the Fijian economy hasn’t only brought us growth, it has put more money back in the pockets of ordinary people. Last year, we raised our income tax threshold, giving thousands of hard-working people more spending power, and I’m sure our retailers have noticed a big spike in consumer spending as a result. That has given Fijian families access to more goods and services and pumped money back into our economy, growing businesses, creating new market opportunities and creating and sustaining employment. All making for big wins for shoppers, shopkeepers, our youth, our women and our entire Fijian economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, I suppose one good thing about delaying this official opening ceremony is that I don’t need to predict how wonderful this development is going to be for Lautoka, because we’ve been able to see that good for ourselves since these doors opened last year.
Home to 25 restaurants, stores and other outlets, it has become the centrepiece of commerce in our Sugar City, a place where Fijians can shop, grab a meal and spend time with their friends and families.
This development is proof positive that our journey forward as a nation isn’t only happening in Suva, or down the coast in Nadi. It is happening right here, and this project is very much part of building Lautoka into a premier city in Fiji, and the whole of the Pacific.
I remember back in October of last year when we held our national Constitution Day ceremony in the West for the very first time. Fijians from all across Viti Levu were right here in Lautoka, filling your streets with energy, festivities and celebration. And I’m sure every business owner and shopkeeper in Lautoka remembers that weekend fondly as well.
We held those celebrations in Lautoka because we are committed to making this city a centre of our national life, a Fijian hub of activity, prosperity and development. Of course, that work isn’t only about national celebrations, it is about attracting investment, creating jobs and making Lautoka – and our entire Western Division – a better place to live, work and – quite simply – enjoy life.
All throughout the West we’ve delivered development; new roads and bridges, water, electricity and telecommunications infrastructure, and a state-of-the-art airport in Nadi.
We’ve widened the reach of Government services to make life more convenient, and we’ve created an economic environment that is building businesses, attracting investment and making life better for every Fijian who calls our Western Division home.
Development of that scale cannot take place in a stagnant economy. It can only take place when a nation is growing and on the move, as Fiji has been the past decade. It can only take place when our partners in the private sector share our vision and belief for what is possible. And it can only take place when we focus on the big picture, and carry out an agenda that brings long-term success and prosperity.
Our economy is booming, our unemployment is the lowest we’ve seen in 30 years, and – on the back of an education revolution – we are fielding the most talented workforce in Fijian history. And I’m very glad to note that we have over 300 Fijians employed right here in TappooCity, Lautoka.
My fellow Fijians, the Fiji we know today wasn’t built by talk, smiles and false promises – which is all those in the Opposition have to offer – it has been built by my Government’s commitment to deliver real development that is making real differences in the lives of the Fijian people.
That work has made it a very exciting time to be a Fijian, and an equally exciting time to invest in Fiji. And I’d like to again thank the Tappoo Group for making this major investment in Fiji, on behalf of the many Fijians who are working here and in the surrounding businesses, and all those who now look to this new shopping centre as a fixture of the Lautoka cityscape.
I was very proud to award the Tappoo Group of Companies with our highest accolade – the Supreme Award – at the International Business Awards last year.
That recognition was well-deserved, as the Tappoo Group, year after year, has done extremely well by Fiji and the Fijian people.
You’ve invested directly in the potential of Fijians all around the country, you’ve held steady confidence in our economic ability and achievement, and you’ve been an unrivalled partner in progress to my Government in building a new and better Fiji, and making life better for the Fijian people. So to the Tappoo Group, I’d like to extend a very gracious Vinaka Vakalevu.
When we first broke ground on the construction of this project, Fiji was headed into our first genuinely democratic elections. Four years on, Lautoka has seen new and improved infrastructure, higher paying jobs and bigger and better opportunities for its residents. And again, the next four years hold tremendous promise for Lautoka. Again, our game plan for Fiji will carry this city to new levels of success, development and achievement.
I’m very glad to officially open TappooCity, Lautoka. I know it will see many more years as a landmark of this city and as a centre of commerce and community. Thank you again to the Tappoo Group, and to all of the hard-working Fijians who made this development a reality.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
Media: The Fiji sun
Date: 21st January