Members of Parliament (MPs) are currently attending a three-day professional development retreat on the role of Parliament in Extractive Industries.
The retreat is intended to provide them an opportunity to explore their role in improving the effective management and oversight of the extractive industries and to understand what is required from the parliament’s side to ensure its safe and continued development.
While opening the retreat, Fijian Parliament Speaker Hon. Dr Jiko Luveni stated:
“We are fortunate to be surrounded by qualified staff and experts, but we must be willing and able to engage with this important sector more closely ourselves so that we are in a position to have informed debate on these topics when they arise in Parliament.”
“Throughout these sessions, we will be asked to consider how we can integrate Fiji’s natural resource wealth into a sustainable development strategy, so that its profits can better serve our national development priorities,” Hon. Dr Luveni said.
She also highlighted that mining is everywhere in Fiji. From gold to bauxite to gravel, our natural resources are a potential source of wealth that we must harness, but we must do so carefully.
“Exploitation of Fiji’s natural resource wealth can be done in a sustainable manner that benefits all. As representatives of the people of Fiji, it is our duty to make sure that is done exactly so. It is our ambition to build a strong and sustainable economy that offers opportunities to all men, women, boys and girls in Fiji, without causing lasting damage to our economy, our environment, and our communities,” Hon. Dr Luveni added.
The UNDP Pacific Office Country Director, Mr Bakhodir Burkhanov, highlighted that UNDP has been supporting numerous countries around the world in translating the use of oil, gas and mineral resources into development benefits.
“The mining sector contributes significantly to government revenue, GDP and export in resource-rich countries. Despite this opportunity for development, many countries fail to use the extractive industries sector for wider economic and social development.”
“To date, translating Fiji’s natural resource potential into sustainable development gains has proved challenging. The income generation potential of the sector often remains under-realized.”
“Extraction points for these minerals are sometimes along various rivers and waterways, posing social, environmental and community health issues, especially to those who rely on those rivers for their livelihoods.”
“Beyond that, key challenges persist with regard to market access, environmental and social impacts, and policy and regulation, particularly with regard to licensing, taxation and the broader fiscal framework,” Mr Burkhanov said.
Tomorrow, the participants will be visiting the gravel extraction site at Navua River beside Nakavu village and the land based quarry site near Mau village.
The session will be closed by the Speaker of Parliament on Friday, 26th August 2016.