What is Fiji's main source of income
Who Owns Fiji?
Fiji: over-indebted, overfished, eroded. And also socially torn between indigenous people and Indians. What will become of the island paradise? A local inspection.
When we hear about the Fiji Islands, it usually happens in connection with a military coup or a coup. Restlessness and instability seem to be the fate of these beautiful islands in the middle of the South Pacific. And why?
The English, to whom a chief of the islanders had ceded the islands without ruling them all at the end of the 19th century, soon brought large numbers of Indians into the country as plantation workers - the islanders seemed unsuitable for hard work to the British governor. The Indians were recruited in different parts of India and from the beginning represented an inhomogeneous group, socially, linguistically and in terms of their country. Today they make up about half of the population, many also speak Fijian, English is the state language of the islands, but are religious divided into Hindus and Muslims. The Fiji's Workers' Party represents the political interests of people of Indian origin. This party, with its quasi-socialist program, is usually ineligible for indigenous Fijians from the outset because it represents the Indians. There is no left party in Fiji that would represent the interests of the working population as a whole.
Parallel to the republican order, the fate of the state is determined by the council of chiefs. The indigenous Fijians, organized in clans and village associations, they make up the other half of the population, are represented in this council by their chief, sometimes also called king. The reputation and actual power of these kings varies greatly from region to region. This ranges from an almost purely decorative function to absolute power. The chiefs' political interests also diverge greatly, depending on the economic stage in which the respective region is. What the chiefs have in common is the aristocratic principle of having certain privileges from birth.
In earlier times the chiefs often fought bloodily. There are still regional antipathies today. The idea that the chiefs represent the interests of those who are subject to or entrusted to them can hardly be upheld: the rati or chiefs are divorced from their people, especially through good schooling, but also simply through their material better position. A fact that the English promoted by resorting to the chiefs to support their own rule. Some of them were later knighted. (In contrast to the rest of the patriarchal constitution, there are surprisingly female chiefs as well.)
Indians cannot acquire land
To a certain extent, nepotism and corruption have their historical roots in the principle of chiefs and, to this day, are rich breeding grounds. - The Indians, on the other hand, who see themselves as a disadvantaged minority, stick together and also exclusively support one another. Clan-like relationships are not uncommon in retail, which is dominated by the Indians, but also in other industries.
A special feature of the Fiji Islands is that over 90 percent of the available land belongs to the indigenous population. The remaining ten percent are "free-hold-land" and can also be acquired by foreigners. To protect the interests of the islanders, the English set up an authority before which the clan-like legal title in the country could be proclaimed, something that did not exist in Australia and New Zealand, for example. The land is always the common property of a village, the chief decides on the special allocation. The Indians, as non-indigenous people, could not and cannot acquire land, only lease it. The leasing contracts lasted for many years, and the islanders often only received symbolic compensation. If these contracts expire, it is not uncommon that the islanders do not renew them, nor do they conclude new ones. The Indian farmers have to move away and hope to be able to lease a piece of land somewhere else. Often the no longer cultivated soil becomes forested and becomes primeval forest again.
It should be noted that a republic with two types of citizens, one with the right to land and the other not, can hardly be addressed as such. The freedom to acquire property is one of the basic rights. For a transitional period, for example, the problem could be solved by setting up a clearing house that determines a market-driven leasing price for the respective property, taking into account the interests of both the islanders and the Indians, who have their products on an increasingly difficult to calculate Market to sell, has in mind. Quite apart from the fact that many islanders see the expiry of the leasing contracts as a weapon to expel the Indians, at least to cut back their influence, preferring to withdraw their land, which is economically catastrophic, rather than leasing it, is a good functioning of such Institution with the given clan-like entanglement, the nepotism that prevails, actually only conceivable if the institution could be neutral to a certain extent, best staffed with someone who comes from outside.
Some Indians fear the fate of their compatriots in Uganda, who were rendered lawless and driven out of the country overnight under Idi Amin. Many of these displaced people now live in England.
The population of the Republic of Fiji is divided in half. If the islanders speak Fiji, the Indians speak Hindi or Urdu. If the islanders are Christians or Methodists, if they do not belong to one of the rampant sects, the Indians are Hindus or Muslims. Economically, the Fijians live mostly as fishermen or farmers and, at least in most of the country, drive a pre-market subsistence economy, that is, they grow, harvest and catch just as much as they need to live themselves. The Indians, on the other hand, are commercial farmers, as far as they are active in agriculture - as cattle or chicken breeders, vegetable farmers, sugar cane farmers and the like, but mostly to be found in trade and industry. The so-called intelligence professions are also mostly occupied by Indians.
Schooling in Fiji costs money from elementary school onwards. Many children therefore do not go to school. In many cases, the next school is also very far away from where you live. While some regions of the main islands are heavily populated, there is still no population pressure on many other islands. Of course, many islanders also migrate from there towards the city. Money is rare in the village. In addition, the soil is not equally fertile on every island.
The sustainability of the traditional way of life and economy is impressive. Plantation and precious wood business have, however, already changed and damaged the ecological system, especially in the coastal regions. Soil erosion and drying out are the consequences. As far as fishing is concerned, the sale of fishing licenses to foreign fish industries has already depleted stocks. Of course, there are currently still the places where a successful catch on the reef is more of a playful affair. However, as a result of global warming, there is a risk of sea level rise, which could have devastating consequences for conventional fishing - when the water is low, the catch is collected on the reef. - As a result of immigration and rural exodus, the larger cities of Fiji are surrounded by extensive board settlements. Misery, illiteracy and all kinds of crime prevail here. Since this crime is about to affect tourism, one of the main sources of income, it is "beaten back", as it is said, trying to get the crime under control through police methods.
The cultivation and processing of sugar cane are Fiji's only export industry, along with a little mining and timber industry. If the price for sugar falls once again on the international markets, which means that the developed countries react to an oversupply of sugar with price pressure, this means for Fiji the closure of already not particularly well-positioned factories, the impoverishment of a large number of Indian workers.
Who benefits from tourism?
Tourism is the growth industry par excellence. In many cases, however, it destroys the traditional structures without developing a new and long-term perspective on life for those affected. In many places it also affects the environment and exacerbates the difference between town and country: Most villages have no electricity. The British Vodafone group is in the process of converting Fiji to the cell phone - how bitter mockery do the ubiquitous advertising posters seem. Most of the profit from tourism flows into the pockets of investors, who usually come from outside. The influence exerted by these investors, especially the USA, Australia and New Zealand, is growing. Australia seems to be in the process of establishing itself as a regional authority and supremacy; it intervenes in regional conflicts and plays a dominant role in the Pacific Forum, an organization that brings together all island states. The Australian government has long been promoting a Pacific economic area modeled on the EU, for example, a Pacific currency zone for the Australian dollar.
Fiji has long been heavily indebted, dependent on foreign aid, and suffers from a chronically passive trade balance. Unless another coup or even a civil war worsens the situation, a Republic of Fiji is conceivable in which the Fijians in a partly modernized society, partly set up in the manner of a human park, as employees of international corporations and investors, as unemployed or original exhibits and real boarders will live. The so-called best minds will probably have emigrated in large numbers by then or, because they do not feel safe in the country as Indians, have gone abroad. O happy, wonderful and paradisiacal Fiji! ■
("Die Presse", print edition, November 6, 2010)
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