Monday, June 29, 2009

Wish I Was Still There.

Adolf and The Cook arrived home last night from ten days of indolent inebriation and elegant gluttony in the delightful Republic of Fiji.

Restaurant at Beachside Resort Fiji

We stayed at our favorite 'el cheapo,' Beachside Resort which is owned and operated by Kiwis Phil and Jane. A fabulous but simple menu with extremely reasonable prices. You must go there. The best fish curry and chicken curry ever. A pleasant air conditioned room for two for around NZ$75 per night and NZ$7 gets you anywhere you want to go in a beat up local cab. Exchange rate currently is 0.75.

Beats the hell out of paying $350 per night at Denarau. We talked to some people who took up one of the 'red hot specials' offered for Denarau. You know the story. Discounted airfares and accommodation. What they didn't tell you was that you can't afford to eat and drink there once you arrive. $60 for a sirloin steak and the cheapest bottle of wine is $60!!!!!!! BTW the hotel buys them in for $13 per bottle.

There were severe floods in January and since our first annual visit in 1992, I have never seen the roads in such a state of disrepair. A taxi driver told us the government has no money to repair them.

We went to the Aussie butcher in Nandi and stocked up on rump steak, bacon, smoked ham, Italian sausages, breakfast sausages, chicken drumsticks - about $80 all up. Flew across to the time share and froze some steak, drumsticks and sausies. That did us for the whole week, along with 2kg of the best rice I have ever tasted.

Now what about the politics of the joint?

Nowhere did I hear a bad word about Commodore Bainimarama. We know a number of businesspeople in the Nandi area and their commentary was revealing along with that of taxi drivers, hotel staff and local roadside stall holders. There is widespread anger and it is directed not at the local regime but at New Zealand and Australia.

The local tourism industry has been crucified by Australia's and New Zealand's intemperate and malicious adverse travel advisories. Adolf and The Cook visited seven resorts while we were there and in our judgment occupancy on average was around ten to fifteen percent. It's hard to calculate but we think that in the Nandi /Coral Coast area alone, probably five thousand full time jobs have been lost.

The truth of the matter is that people visiting Western Fiji are no more in danger than they would be visiting Takapuna or Bondi. (For that matter, neither are those visiting Suva.) When The Cook told her sister in WA that we were going to Fiji the silly bitch asked "Are you sure you'll be alright with all the trouble over there?"

That's the level of irreparable damage which has been done to the livelihoods of ordinary Fijians by our two countries' outrageously irresponsible behaviour. The propaganda has worked.

Since the Commodore took power, corruption in the public service and elsewhere has subsided if not disappeared. Why? Because Fiji is an inherently violent society and people know that if they are caught they will have the shit kicked out of them. It is NOT New Zealand.

Corruption at all levels was estimated to be adding between 25% and 30% to the cost of just about EVERYTHING. For example, you would wonder how it could be that a coastal piece of prime residential land would be quietly rezoned commercial and opened up for resort development. No hearings, no objections. Still wondering? Oh well, it just so happened apparently that the prime minister of the day suddenly became the owner of two choice blocks in a resulting subdivision.

None of Adolf's contacts in Western Fiji could recall ever seeing anyone from New Zealand's High Commission during this past two or three years. It appears our government only hears the opinions of those who are on the insiders' list in the Suva beltway. John Key and Murray McCully are being hoodwinked by left leaning bureaucrats. I'm told our loud mouthed ex High Commissioner (personal friend of Helen Clark) was running around Suva bad mouthing the regime at every opportunity. She was explicitly warned that if she continued she would be asked to leave. Journalists Dreaver and Field were described to me as 'trouble makers.'

There is evidence of huge investment in tourism in the Nandi area. God knows where the people will come from but it appears the capital is flowing in from India and Communist China. Certainly makes the fools from Bridgecorp and Hanover look like the amateurish crooks they are. One rumour doing the rounds is that the Commodore has been offered US$300 mil by the Chinese government. That would be very tempting were it not for the price tag. Residency for between 4,000 and 7,000 selected Chinese immigrants. Selected by China not Fiji, of course.

We met a Fijian school teacher and his wife. He asked us what we thought of the devaluation. It became apparent he was confusing the devaluation of the currency with the reduction of public service salaries by three percent some months earlier. When I asked him if he would prefer to have no job rather than 97% of his previous salary he shuffled his feet and chose to be employed.

You see, now that much of the corruption has been rooted out, he is actually better off financially but of course his Labour affiliated union would not want him to know that. Adolf has seen corruption in Argentina and Brazil. Believe me, the Bainimarama remedy is far more palatable than the South American version which usually involves revolutionaries with AK47s shooting up all and sundry.

Interesting times. Mike Moore is right.

My prediction is that unless John Key and Kevin Rudd wake up very soon indeed, they will be too late to prevent a sea change in the political landscape of the South Pacific. China will have it's Pacific based aircraft carrier and all for less than one tenth the cost of the USS Reagan, while New Zealand's prestige and influence in our neighborhood will have been permanently damaged.


KG said...

Thanks for that Adolf--I just put an excerpt up over at CR as an update to our China post.

Charmaine said...

Could not agree more Adolf. I have seen a few coups in my time as a travel agent and the only thing that happens is the locals suffer and the vultures circle for a cheap holiday.

That said I am taking my family there in 4 weeks and I can't wait to get over there and see for myself what is going on.

FWIW I think we are in danger of dropping the ball where Fiji is concerned and we may end up with China alot closer than we would like.

KG said...

Relax, Charmaine--it's a 'benign strategic environment' according to UNwoman. :-)

Anonymous said...

You seem to have glossed over people being randomly beaten & sodomised & killed in police/army custody in your efforts to save the Fijian tourism sector. Oh, wait, no, there it is:

Because Fiji is an inherently violent society and people know that if they are caught they will have the shit kicked out of them. It is NOT New Zealand.

While NZ and Oz may have sadly projected 'little colonial master' in their handling of the Fijian coup so far, Uncle Frank doesn't seem to have been implementing good methods of cleaning up corruption. Add to that his jerking around the South Pacific Forum leaders, and you can see why people want a restoration of democracy.

If Uncle Frank does let China buy citizenship, then he will be perpetuating the racial probels of Fiji, not solving them. An acid test.

Anonymous said...

BTW devaluation wasn't 3% - it was 1/3rd.

So down to 66% not 97%

As I've said repeatedly: the Commodore has a far better idea about what needs to be done in NZ than almost any other NZ politician except Douglas.

When with the Commodore hold Fijian elections? When the Labour party has been wiped out! If only Key or English or Hide or someone had as much guts here!

Uncle Frank doesn't seem to have been implementing good methods of cleaning up corruption

Omelets. Eggs. Or would you like PM Phil?


Excellent piece Adolf.
I recall when I viasited Tonga a couple of years back, the locals feared China influence too and tis government buying up the country and corruptuing its political leaders.
Those Chinese need to be watched.
As I have noted some weeks back, they have also had an unhealthy interest in Australia as well.
They are not to be trusted.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Anonymous, you must be a school teacher.

The Fijian dollar was devalued by 20% on April 15th 2009 and Public Servant's salaries were cut by 5% (not 3%, as the teacher told me) in March 2007.

Kindly get your facts right or don't bother commenting please.