New Year's Message: Remain hopeful, optimistic and fearless
Thursday 31st December 2020
We start 2021 in the throes of serious economic challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which sees no signs of slowing down. Then there is the devastation caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasa.
At the beginning of 2020, we had called on all the people of Fiji to remain hopeful and optimistic despite the challenges facing us. At that time Covid-19 hardly received a mention in international media but we all knew of economic contraction in 2019 that would later be revised even further downwards by the Reserve Bank of Fiji.
One year later, we are facing the most challenging times as a 50-year-old independent nation. The worst economic performance in our history, massive unemployment, reduced wages and salaries, reduction in working hours, infrastructure and a public health system in a state of decay.
We all know what the problems are. And we all know the inability of the current government to find sound and sensible solutions to alleviate the suffering of our people.
But in times like these, any government has a moral obligation to ensure any adverse impact of any economic calamity or natural disaster does not totally destroy the livelihood of its citizens. Social responsibility is a basic tenet of good governance.
We also know no government can do everything alone. It needs support, cooperation, sound advice and expertise from citizens’ advisory groups, NGOs, civil society, academics and professionals in every field.
At the same time, a government must not hesitate to harness all the talent and become an effective and powerful force in tackling and overcoming any challenge no matter how insurmountable it may seem to be. And this usually starts with bipartisanship at the highest level, which is parliament or even forming a government of national unity.
No government, political party, organisation or individual has the solution to all the problems facing us. But the current government, for some reason best known to its leaders, thinks it knows what is best because it has the mandate to govern the way it wants to.
Riding roughshod over people’s mandate can be catastrophic for the nation.
It is still not too late for government to change course, embrace bipartisanship and harness the talent that is in abundance in our nation to achieve solutions through dialogue, consensus-building and negotiation.
This is how we achieved independence and all other monumental achievements that were, are and will be the bedrock of our nation and all its people.
We therefore request all our people to remain hopeful, optimistic and fearless when faced with adversity.
We have triumphed over tragic situations in our nation before. 2021 and beyond will be no different.
Together, we can and must change the future.
Professor Biman Prasad