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ILIESA DELANA Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports _______________________________________________________________________________ RESPONSE TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT’S SPEECH Madam Speaker, I am delighted to address the House today in support of the speech delivered by our President, His Excellency Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote. Madam Speaker, His Excellency the President left us with lasting motivation and promoted clearly the patriotism to which we all aspire as Fijians. It provided our citizens with the assurance that Government has done, is doing and will continue to do its best for our citizens, creating solid foundations for the best future for our youths and our future generations. It reminded us of our progress and achievements as well as what we still have to do. It boosts our morale while acknowledging we can always do better. It affirms our capability to reach into a bright future, despite our divided past. His Excellency’s speech provided every Fijian with belief that we can match bigger nations and economies through development and prosperity. For that, we thank His Excellency the President, Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote for his excellent and timely reminder. Madam Speaker, His Excellency’s speech gives our youth population assurance that we will help them build their future. It sheds more light and emphasis on Government’s intention and vision. It complements our Ministry’s work and commitment towards the recognition of disabled persons, respect for women and the vulnerable in our communities, especially children, the respect for and appreciation of our national Constitution with its clear direction on respect of the rights of individuals resulting from our diversity in culture, race, gender or religion. Madam Speaker, I am proud to say that the Ministry of Youth and Sports is strongly advocating that we create a steady, thorough and extensive awareness of the 2013 Constitution. His Excellency the President said in his speech last week and I quote; “Our Constitution has been acclaimed internationally. It, amongst other things, mandates equality between all Fijians and a common identity. It has a comprehensive Bill of Rights, which affords all Fijians civil, political and socio-economic rights. More importantly, the Constitution does not just suggest action or simply express ideals. It directs Government to take action to turn those ideals into policies, laws and — most importantly — practices. Its language is clear: It uses words like “shall” and “must.” There is no ambiguity” unquote. The Ministry envisages a young population that is fully aware of their rights, boundaries and especially respect for their fellow citizens. The Ministry continues to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that through its programs and activities, every young Fijian will be made aware of their rights, creating an awareness and appreciation of their boundaries and limitation and the importance of co-existence based on respect. However, the Ministry is committed to move from co-existence to mutual support. We need to emphasise the basic fundamentals of social cohesion – not only to the youth but also to the elder generations. Much of what young people learn is from their parents. This warrants an unwavering commitment from all spheres of the community. His Excellency the President further stated that: “The Constitution gives us a way to live together, to govern and to make decisions” unquote. The onus now is on us to ensure that the principle and the aspirations of the 2013 Constitution is entrenched in our hearts, our thoughts and our practices as we press forward united as a nation. Madam Speaker, I must also acknowledge His Excellency’s speech and his emphasis on youth entrepreneurship. I must reiterate that statement and say that youths are an integral fabric of our developing economy. In 2015, unemployed young people between 12-24 years stood at 18.2%, 4.6 times higher than older adults. This Government and the Ministries of Youth and Sports, of Employment and Education are aware of these statistics and are working collaboratively in addressing this issue. We are also aware that the transition from school to decent jobs is a major challenge for many young people in Fiji, particularly for those who drop out of the formal school system. This applies equally to those who drop out of university. According to the Ministry of Education, approximately 9,000 young people do not make it from year 8 to year 13. In 2016, approximately 48,000 people were registered with the National Employment Centre (NEC), the majority presumably youth. We believe empowering young people and providing them a support to create entrepreneurship will create better opportunities, employment and sustainable livelihood for many youths. The Ministry, with the ILO, is in the process of reviewing the ‘Know About Business Program’ to help young people take an active interest in entrepreneurship and self-employment. Helping young people to earn a living through entrepreneurship will make a crucial contribution to reducing poverty. The Ministry will follow up with PIPSO to cooperate and extend to this to online learning and to other Pacific nations with support from the ILO. Madam Speaker, I also wish to highlight that Ministry’s training provides young Fijians an opportunity to discover, analyse and understand values and their implications and build over time, a personal set of skills that will empower them to create sustainable and secure futures. Included in these skills sets is how to become entrepreneurs. We now have individuals and youth clubs who have innovatively created small enterprises for themselves. We are working in this with other Ministries to support them through the development chain of entrepreneurs. Madam Speaker, hosting the 2017 National Youth Entrepreneurs’ Awards aims to encourage and reward entrepreneurship among youths in Fiji in a partnership with the Fiji Commerce and Employment Federation. We continue to raise awareness among the nation’s youth populace of the critical role that private enterprise and entrepreneurship play in economic growth and nation building. His Excellency the President said and I quote; “By developing a national system of technical colleges to build our capacity in the skilled trades, technology and para-professional fields. We also do not want our youth to be only job seekers but to be job creators. Accordingly, Government has introduced the Young Entrepreneur Scheme or YES, which offers up to a maximum grant of $20,000 to innovative and creative Fijians between the ages of 18 to 30 years. By encouraging commercial farming by issuing 99-year commercial lease and start-up grants to young people through the Commercial Agricultural Scholarship Programme. Our children and youth are our most precious commodity. They are our future” unquote. We welcome this initiative and will support it with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism. Madam Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not also mention that sport is also our commitment and we continue to emphasise the impact sports have made on our economy and the lives of our sporting population. This is particularly so as our challenge of non-communicable diseases are a drain on our economy. This is preventable if we can work more consistently to get people of all ages to become more physically active through sport and manage our diets more appropriately. I say this as a former sportsperson who has had the honour to represent this wonderful country. It does require discipline and a change in our habits but it is for the better health, mental and physical, of our citizens and will reduce the burden on our health system. As a person who has had an amputation, I can tell you from my personal life-changing experience, it is something that ideally we should all work to avoid. Madam Speaker, as we head into another election year, the Ministry will increase the pace of delivery to ensure youths are aware of their rights and their civic duty. This is not only in the area of elections but also in their everyday lives. However, they need to take part and determine the future by participating in the elections while respecting the views of others. Madam Speaker, I thank you again for this opportunity to outline my Ministry’s commitment to delivering to the youth and sports communities in our beloved country. Vinaka.