Europe to slash Fiji sugar aid

Europe is set to announce it will slash its funding for Fiji’s sugar industry, in a major new setback for the island nation’s struggling economy.
The Fijilive website has reported that Europe would reduce promised aid payments from $F350 million ($A263 million) to $F131 million ($A98.5 million).
The website said a decision to reduce the aid was made in December, in the weeks following the military coup in Fiji, and would be conveyed to the interim government.
But an initial payment of $F8 million ($A6 million) would go ahead in two months’ time, it said.
European authorities met their Fijian counterparts earlier this month to discuss the future of aid payments, given the political situation in Fiji.
At the conclusion of the talks Europe said Fiji’s commitments, including a return to democracy by March 2009, would allow the country to avoid losing promised development aid.
Fiji’s self-appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said he hoped there would be a successful outcome to negotiations with the European Union.
Speaking at the opening day of the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Ministerial meeting on sugar in Nadi, Bainimarama said failure to negotiate successfully would cripple Fiji’s economy.
“I urge you to put nothing less than your best thoughts to ensure that we negotiate successfully with the EU,” he told delegates.
“Failure to do this could mean economic ruin for most of our countries.
“One could only imagine the resultant social consequences if that were to happen. This is the crux of the issue that we as a group are faced with.”
The EU head of delegation in Fiji, Dr Roberto Ridolfi, will be addressing the ACP meeting.
Sugar exports are one of Fiji’s major sources of foreign income.
Meanwhile weblogs have been urging Fijians to stay away from work on Tuesday in protest at the military take-over in their country.
“If you are unhappy about what is happening to our beloved Fiji stay at home on May 1st in protest – join the ranks of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela who said NO peacefully,” read a posting at the Discombobulated Bubu weblog.
Source: The Age (Melbourne, Australia) 30 April 2007

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