Vol. 5 No. 2
COUP 'THROWS FIJI BACK 20 YEARS'
By SHITAL RAM
A SENIOR economics lecturer at the University of the South Pacific warns that it may take Fiji up to 20 years to recover from the recent George Speight-led coup.
“It took the country 10 years to put in place a new constitution and you could just see how things like the Yaqara project and new hotels were developing,” said Dr Philip Szmedra.
“Things were actually getting rosy now, lots of people were becoming employed.”
“I think Fiji was actually on an uptake, it was heading towards a GDP growth path of about 5 per cent and that would mean an increase in social welfare, the amount of money government could get and that could ultimately lead to an increase in services like clinics, hospitals, other kinds of social programmes.
“Technical programmes could also have been introduced to better train people to take jobs that are being developed,” said Dr Szmedra. “None of that’s going to happen and so I think that’s probably going to throw Fiji back another 20 years.”
“This coup is a bad thing for Fiji and I think everyone realises that,” said Dr Szmedra. He said the tourism industry would be the one most significantly affected by the coup. “The number of people coming in is going to be diminished, depending on the country you are talking about,” said Dr Szmedra.
“United States tourists will not come to a country that’s unstable. Also, they tend not to come to developing countries that are not democracies. So, you might like to subtract about 60 to 70 per cent of American tourists,” he said.
Dr Szmedra does not foresee a major decrease in tourists coming from Australia and New Zealand. “Australians and New Zealanders tend to know Fijians and then they tend to know South Pacific Islanders,” said Dr Szmedra.
“They are more familiar with the people and the goings on here and so they would probably have less of a negative view of it but would probably not change their travel plans in the long-term.”
“In the short-term, if they plan on coming here in June or July they probably would push it back.”
Fiji was set to benefit from visitors to the Sydney Olympics in September who would have planned to use the country as a stopover.
“I think that now the people who are considering a side visit to one of the Pacific Island countries will probably give Fiji a wide berth,” Dr Szmedra said.
“I think that if they’re interested in stopping, you’ll see tourism figures increase significantly in Tonga and Samoa, and other South Pacific countries, not Fiji.”
File created: 3 June 2000
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