Don’t hesitate. Please spend it. This was the pitch from Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation and Education Viliame Gavoka, imploring potential investors who may be holding off on plans to invest due to fear or lack of confidence in Fiji’s economy.
“We were quite shocked when the governor (of the Reserve Bank of Fiji) said to us that lots of projects had been approved, funds are available in the bank but people are reluctant to draw and spend the money and create investment,” Mr Gavoka said in his opening address at the Nadi Chambers of Commerce Industry Business Forum in Nadi over the weekend.
“If the bank has given you a loan, please spend it. If you wait for the right time, it will never come. We all know that. We’ve been through that. There’s never a right time. Go for it. When you go for it, you will lift up the economy.”
Spending on investment had been lower than expected last year, RBF Governor Ariff Ali stated in the central bank’s January monthly economic review released last week.
This, despite “historical low” interest rates and “a broad growth of 33.6 percent” in investment-related lending by commercial banks – growth that is more price-driven than volume, with RBF stating it reflected “higher prices of construction materials, as seen in the growth of the building material price index by 7.6 percent in 2023.”
Mr Gavoka assured investors that the politics of the day in the tripartite coalition government were well within manageable levels.
“I think there are too many, sometimes, the doomsayers, do impact our economy in ways that that we should all try and avoid.
“And for me personally, being party leader of the kingmakers in this country, I always talk confidence.
“Whenever you see me at any time there is some crisis within SODELPA, I come out and say no, we will resolve it.
“Because I can tell you today, every time there is any kind of commotion within the coalition, we immediately feel it in this country
“I am one who is always confident and I believe there is every reason why everyone in Fiji should be confident about our economy, so please, when you have a project out there, see that it happens.”