Speech by Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport
Speech by Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport

Speech by Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport

The Honorable Faiyaz Siddiq KoyaWe can be the Pacific’s Outsourcing Hub, says Minister Koya

As we celebrate the launch of the BPO Council of Fiji, we mark a new era in providing the sector an opportunity to collectively work together with the Fijian Government and position ourselves as the BPO hub of the region.

One of our greatest strengths as a modern economy is the develop- ment of call centres and outsourcing because it uses our greatest resource — our people. To put this into perspective, close to 5,000 Fijians, representative of a young workforce, are currently employed in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and BPO sectors, which contribute approximately 10% towards Fiji’s GDP.

Fiji checks key boxes

We are placed in a very strong position with ex- cellent 4T and telecommu- nications infrastructure and competitive wage and salary rates. We also have an educated and accent neutral English-speaking work force, a cost effective near shore location and a convenient time zone area.

These enabling factors check key boxes that our neighboring markets, Australia and New Zealand require. So essentially, it positions us in place to tell investors – ‘Fiji’s is your destination for doing business and your gateway to other regional markets’.

Apart from having a rich pool of talent, the Fijian Government has worked strategically to position Fiji as a lucrative location for BPO operations, offering attractive investment incentives. As far as our ICT preparedness goes, we have provided digital infrastructure for Fijians and Fijian businesses to do business online.

Fiji going for top 50

Initiative such as digitalFIJI and bizFIJI, which are part of our digital transformational agenda, is empowering Fijians to be connected to the Fijian Governments e-services, a step forward from the traditional practice of providing assistance. We’ve taken pro-active steps to remove administrative burdens and reduce bureaucratic obstacles to fast track approval process — especially for micro, small and medium entrprises.

Over the recent months, the Fijian Government has implemented pivotal reforms in the area of starting a business. We’ve even removed business licensing.

We’ve set ambitious targets which includes our target of being ranked in the top 50 countries in doing business by 2025 and to be preceded by a mid-term target of 75 in the Doing Business 2023 Report.

‘Plug and Play’ approach

Partnership will play a critical role in creating investable opportuni ties and in meeting our commitment to develop Fiji as a services hub of the Pacific. This is why we’re working with the private sector on the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Navutu Lautoka, which will primarily focus on, creating opportunities in the BPO sector.

The SEZ will have in place all the necessary supporting infrastructure and utilities to facilitate custom demands of poten- tial investors through its Plug-and-Play” approach, thus providing seamless business opportunity.

Creating industries of the future

The Fijian economy was heavily dependent on the tourism sector, which contributes 40% towards Fiji’s GDP. Owing to the Coronavirus pandemic and the closing of international borders, this sector is now near a standstill.

We have undertaken extensive sectoral and one-on-one consultations, with industry stakeholders to draw the parameters of our recovery. Our recovery is guided by key pillars of socio-economic sustenance. And one of the ways we intend tp achieve this by diversifying and expanding manufacturing base, and establishing industries of the future, like IT and BPO. Looking at the current global trend, whilst the BPO/ICT industry has also been impacted, it also has the ability to easily diversify into and work towards reviving our economy.

Fiji is well positioned

Fiji is well placed in terms of resources and facilities readily available for businesses to start operations. We are well positioned to attract BPO investments, starting from the lower end and moving up the value chain. This is evident as we have managed to secure our position by attracting renowned BPO investors to reposition their back office processing in Fiji.

In order to achieve the status of the true hub of the Pacific, we need to focus on our potential and capitalise on the opportunities available.

Courses on BPO

My Ministry has been working very closely with the BPO Council since 2018, when it was in the early stages of formation. In the 2019-2020 Financial Year National budget, grant of $50,000 was given to the BPO Council.

Since then, the Ministry, Investment Fiji and the BPO Council have been working closely on the establishment of the Council. Today, our efforts are doubling. In fact, we are currently working with tertiary institutions in Fiji to get BPO related courses introduced into their curriculum.

We want to ensure that Fijians have the right skills to be readily employed. Fiji is privileged to have a 96% literacy rate which puts us in a favorable position in comparison to other competing, countries which provide BPO services.

Government offers Tax Incentives

The Fijian Government, as announced in the 2020- 2021 National Budget, is committed to steering Fiji towards economic recovery through incentives such as: eliminating business licensing, introducing tax cuts targeted at businesses and households, across-the-board reductions in customs tariffs and streamlining of processes.

All of which will improve the ease of doing business in Fiji, making us one of the most competitive des- tinations for businesses.

Join the BPO Council

Coming back to today’s event, it is time to show our appreciation and support for the Fijian BPO industry. I strongly encourage other, BPO companies to join the Council and make use of this platform to support the advancement of your industry.

In an effort to connect Fijian BPO service providers to International markets, Id like to congratulate the BPO Council, for their combined determination in showcasing Fiji as a highly attractive investment destination for outsourcing.

I also encourage other BPO companies to take advantage of the investment incentives Fiji has to offer and businesses to consider outsourcing their back office operations to these companies.