Ministry's Operations Plan Outlines Strategies to Support Fiji's Green Economy: Seruiratu
The following is the address by the Acting Prime Minister and Acting Minister for Forestry Inia Seruiratu at the Launch of the Ministry’s Costed Annual Operations Plan on 17th November at the Colo-i-Suva Forest Park
The Permanent Secretary and Staff of the
Ministry of Forestry;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Ni sa bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all. I am pleased to join you to launch the Ministry’s Costed Annual Operation Plan, and what better place to have this launch than right here at the recently upgraded Colo-i-Suva Forest Park?
Ladies and Gentlemen, Fiji is blessed with an abundance of trees. Forests cover over 60% of Fiji’s landmass, and our trees and forests play a critical role in maintaining our environment, sustaining our economy and enriching our daily lives.
They protect the natural environment and guarantee its biodiversity, they ensure that we have clean water and a variety of food, they help mitigate the impacts of climate change, and they contribute to the development of the economy.
The Ministry of Forestry is responsible for the sustainable development, utilisation and management of Fiji’s forest resources, and it will continue to carry out this mammoth task with assistance from its dedicated partners and stakeholders.
I had the opportunity to open a forestry stakeholder consultation workshop on the FAO-funded Fiji Forest Sector Outlook Study just two weeks ago.
The main purpose of the study is to examine the evolution and trends in the forestry sector, and to provide some insight into what we can expect by 2030 and even up to 2050 as we work to reduce our vulnerabilities and build the resilience of our communities and our entire national territory. I have no doubt that the information from this study will contribute positively to the sustainable management of Fiji’s forests.
COVID-19 Recovery Plan
We can all bear witness to the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our economy and the livelihoods of our people. I am pleased to note that the Ministry has a 3-year recovery plan that focuses on economic growth, improving incomes and food security, and making sure that our forest resources are sustainable and healthy for generations to come. This recovery plan is projected to generate a total revenue of over $400 Million in the next 3 years, starting from this year.
With a budget of $13.2 million, the Ministry aims to work with the private sector to generate some $124 Million in exports for the 12 months ending in July 2022. The forestry sector generated more than $36 Million in export revenue in the first quarter of the financial year, which is 29% of the targeted annual revenue. And the Ministry aims to continue this momentum by redoubling its efforts to support the work of the private sector.
I must commend all the Staff at the Ministry for this commitment. Thank you.
Legislative Review and Policy Direction
Ladies and Gentlemen, the other key initiatives embedded in the Ministry’s annual operation plan for this financial year include the review of the Forest Act and its associated regulations and policies will chart the way forward for the sector in an era of climate change and unforeseeable challenges like global pandemics.
The Forest Act in particular will be aligned with the Climate Change Act of 2021, especially in relation to management of our natural resources and carbon trade, which are a part of Government’s commitment to a net-zero Fiji and a resilient world.
The review of our legislation will also help strengthen our resolve against illegal activities in the forestry sector. This is a critical development that the Ministry aims to address through partnerships with enforcement institutions such as the Police and FICAC and through strengthening the ethical standards and sense of mission within the Ministry.
As we all know, when illegal logging takes place, only a handful of people win. They include the illegal operator and the few landowners and perhaps the occasional Civil Servant who has lost his ethical way and may be aiding and abetting illegal activities.
The greatest losers will be the majority of landowners, the national economy, and the environment. Illegal operators don’t care about damage to the environment, like soil erosion, declining water quality and biodiversity loss. So it is important to stop this illegal activity and make sure that all persons involved in it face the full penalties that the law requires.
At the same time, taking stock of Fiji’s current forest resources is critical to guide the work of the Ministry and Government in making informed decisions. This year the Ministry will continue the National Forest Inventory exercise, adopting a more comprehensive method with the inclusion of measurement of aboveground biomass, deadwood and litter, and other carbon pools.
Tree planting, Forest expansion and Nature Based Solutions
The Ministry will continue to coordinate Fiji’s tree-planting campaign under the 30 Million Trees in 15 Years (30MT15Y) initiative with the aim of expanding our forest cover and restoring degraded forest areas.
Of course, this will have ripple effects on the environment and on all of us. Some people will be affected directly and others indirectly, but we are all touched by it. It will protect our natural areas, prevent biodiversity loss, sustain livelihoods and produce resilient food systems for people who depend on the forests. The national tree-planting initiative is at the heart of the important work of growing Fiji’s green and blue economy from ridge to reef—mountains, forests, fields, seas and reef. They are all part of Fiji, and each generation is given stewardship of this beautiful environment—to nurture it, care for it, and pass it on to the next generation. Our commitment today must be to bequeath to our children an environment that is better than the one we inherited—much better.
The signing of the 5-year Emission Reduction Programme Agreement with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility of the World Bank this past January will further support tree planting, forest expansion and establishment of permanent forest estates, financed through carbon trading and benefiting resource owners and the economy as a whole.
Facilitating the Ease of Doing Business
The Ministry will continue its initiative of transitioning its licensing processes into an active and efficient online system that will address the “ease of doing business” initiative and support economic growth.
Forest certification will continue to progress this year for the Mahogany Industry. With the abundance of matured mahogany, the certification should ensure that Fijian Mahogany will have access to niche markets where it can bring a much higher price, and that benefits all of us.
The Ministry will also continue to help communities generate income this financial year. It will do this through the harvesting of matured trees, by doing processing of Fijian forest products here in Fiji so that we export products of added value, by rebuilding cyclone-proof homes, and through other income-generating projects.
Now more than ever, the onus is on primary industries like Forestry to step up efforts to venture into more green and inclusive plans that will reignite economic activities and contribute to the Green Recovery for Fiji—a recovery that is climate-neutral, resilient, sustainable and inclusive.
I congratulate you for the work you have done in the last financial year and your tireless dedication to fulfilling the plans of the Fijian Government this year and beyond.
Thank you for always supporting your Minister, the Management Team of this Ministry, and adhering to Government’s call.
I appeal to you all to continue the momentum and carry that team spirit with you into the future to build back a progressive and prosperous Fiji.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you once again for your presence today, and it is now my honour and greatest pleasure to officially launch the Ministry’s Operational Plan for 2021-2022 and I wish everyone the best in its implementation.
Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank You.