Q. What do you tell potential investors who are looking to come to Fiji? Do you have to give them the hard sell?
A. I tell them that we have got rid of the bureaucracy in government. We have never [been able to do that] before. In the past three or four years we have had more investment in the country than ever before because of the stability that we have [achieved]. Also, I think investors are keen to know that we will be having democratic elections in 2014. We have had interest from all corners of the globe, including places such as Russia, China, India, the Middle East... places where we have never had [much] interest [from] before. And of course, from the Chinese, who are here in a big way.
Q. In December 2011, Fiji and China signed an agreement that will strengthen bilateral economic and technical co-operation. That agreement includes a grant by the Chinese of F$5.7m ($3.22m). How close are relations between Fiji and China at the moment?
A. Chinese investment is not new to Fiji. In fact they are one of our oldest friends, going back to when Fiji gained independence in 1970, and they have come to our assistance when everyone else has deserted us. Our relationship has strengthened in past few years [with the] recognition of our sovereignty. In terms [of investment] they have started mining companies and also many construction projects. We have given them a climate conducive to good growth for their investments.
Q. Where would you like to see investment in the mid to long term in the country?
A. One area is mining. [The sector] is on the way up [in Fiji] now. We have found a new gold mine and there is also bauxite mining in Fiji. An Australian-Japanese company is going to start [work on the] copper mine, which is one of the biggest in the Pacific.
Tourism, of course, is still strong but there is still room for expansion. We are not looking necessarily for the five-, six- or even seven-star resorts; we want to get into more eco-tourism, especially on some outer islands. We have also [after many years of it being closed to tourists due to regulations from the previous government] opened Tavarua – the home of the famous [reef break] Cloudbreak – again for surfing. It is one of the best places for surfing in the world and the World Championships will be held here in 2012.
Q. Are you not concerned that you may be overrun with tourists?
A. We do not have enough hotels rooms right now. We have asked operators to come and open hotels in Fiji, especially here on the eastern side of Viti Levu [the main island]. Our national airline carrier, Air Pacific, is doing quite well and we will be getting new planes next year from Airbus. So that will certainly help the industry. And we have a licence for a casino that will bring a different brand of tourist. We hope they will bring more money than most other tourists do. That brand of tourist comes in all seasons, so they will be able to fill [the] hotels that are empty during the low months.
Q. Do you think that Fiji will continue to strengthen its position as a hub for business in the south Pacific?
A. If you look at the map of the south Pacific, we are in the centre and we have to take advantage of that. We will bring about development in our ports so [that] we can take cargo to the rest of the Pacific. We have manufacturers in Fiji that export goods to the rest of the Pacific – all across the islands you see Fiji-made products. So we want to take advantage of our geographical position.
[For example] most of the embassies are here in Suva [Fiji's capital] but also serve nearby countries, such as Tonga and Kiribati. And international organisations are also centreed in Suva and work from here for other island [countries]. So we want to continue to grow [those] aspects as well.