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Skill Drain Major Threat To Economy

Issue No: 299 18 December 2000

The drain of skills from Fiji following the terrorist uprising in Fiji is continuing and is now poised to be the major threat to the Fiji economy.

The Fiji Teachers Union told today's Fiji Sun that 80 of its members have already resigned from the civil service and are migrating. The union expects a mass exodus of teachers by the end of January. The schools closed for the year on Friday 15 December.

It is understood that the Ministry of Education is not releasing many teachers who want to proceed on overseas holidays for the fear that they will continue to earn a salary until the next school term, but in effect migrate now under the guise of holiday.

Skill drain in other professions is also continuing. The Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva states that it can not carry out the same number of surgeries as before because of lack of nursing support. The hospital states that if the trend continues, then it will have to focus only on emergency surgeries. Already it has postponed numerous surgeries of non-life threatening types. Nurses have been leaving Fiji in hordes. The Fiji Nurses Association, backed by individuals who later were identified to be with the terrorists - like Metuisela Mua, Mere Samisoni, and Ema Druavesi, amongst others - had staged a protest march in Suva a week before the terrorists took over the parliament complex. One of their grievance was the government was not giving them an immediate salary rise. The government had planned for a major salary increment for the nurses and para-medical staff from January 2001, but the march pre-empted this and they ended up getting a relatively minor increase.

Resignations from other sectors are also high. Many doctors have resigned and are moving abroad. The same goes for engineers, information technology personnel, accountants, and those in trade jobs like electricians, plumbers, mechanics, etc.

The trend is quickly driving Fiji's export competitiveness away. The higher priced replacements, and the lower qualified/experienced replacements in some quarters (like the Fiji Sugar Corporation) is not only costing the businesses significantly, but these are also destroying Fiji's economic competitiveness. The Fiji Sugar Corporation has been a typical example of a victim of, amongst others, skill drain and the replacements by unqualified staff and highly paid expatriates since the 1987 military coup. The company now forecasts many years of losses. The Qarase regime decided to give the FSC a loan of $8.5m next year to bail the company out. Many experts have predicted the collapse of the sugar industry during the next 10 years.

END 18 Dec 2000

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