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The 20th Fiji Business Excellence Awards 2018.

November 3, 2018       Sheraton Fiji Resort, Suva.

Honourable Ministers

Honourable Speaker

The Vice-Chancellor of the Fiji National University, Professor Nigel Healey 

The Director of the National Training & Productivity Centre, Dr. Isimeli Tagicakiverata

Members of the 2018 Fiji Business Excellence Awards Panel Of Review 

Leaders and Executives from the Private and Public Sectors

Business Supporters and Kind Sponsors

Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished Guests 

Ladies and Gentlemen 

Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaskar, Asalaamu alaykum, Ni hao, 

Kona mauri, Noa’ia‘e mauri and good evening to you all. 

My wife, Sarote and I are very pleased and deeply honoured to join you all this evening for the presentation of the 2018 Fiji Business Excellence Awards. 

And in presenting the awards, I would like to take a moment to honour our visionary leaders and those who introduced the National Awards, which recognizes organisations in both the private and public sectors that practice the Business Excellence principles. Which include:

The leaders of Government, Employers and Workers Representatives, and 

The then Fiji National Training Centre, which is now the National Training & Productivity Centre (NTPC) of the Fiji National University.

I would also like to commend NTPC for facilitating the secretariat role for the past 20 years. Your sound management of the Awards process over recent years has given rise to its popularity and growth today. 

To the former and current Directors and Managers of the Department of Quality Awards – I thank you for a job well done. 

I am confident that the Fiji Business Excellence Awards will continue to grow under the leadership of the current management and with the guidance from the Fiji National University.

I would also like to recognize the pioneer organisations that were the first to enter the awards process back in 1999. These organizations believed in the newly introduced Business Excellence initiative even at its embryonic stage. These organisations include Ocean Soap Limited, Coca-Cola Amatil Fiji and Fletcher Pacific Steel (Fiji) Ltd.

Ladies and gentlemen, I also commend the past President’s Award winners. These organisations achieved the highest level of the Awards, and have continued to perform exceptionally well in their respective industries. Thank you to: 

Vodafone Fiji Limited,

DHL Fiji,

Sheraton Resort Fiji,

The then Fiji Electricity Authority and now Energy Fiji Limited, and

Air Terminal Services.These organisations prove that nothing is impossible and that with the right mindset, attitude, work ethic and a clear vision, an organization can rise above its

challenges to achieve and maintain sustainable growth.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this juncture, I would like to say that the Fiji Business Excellence Awards Framework is a vital tool that all organizations should adopt. Over the years there have been positive responses received from organisations that have implemented the framework. These organisations put strong emphasis in the implementation of robust systems and well-organized processes, hence their effectiveness in terms of product delivery, market presence and value adding to their customers and stakeholders. 

I believe that we must continue to be open minded about how we navigate our organisations through the present age. We might think that our operation is confined within our industry, current technology or within this country; however, we need to be mindful that we cannot operate in isolation.

As our economy evolves and modernises, even the more established businesses are experiencing new and ever-changing challenges, which they did not encounter 20 years ago. These changes are being brought on largely by the growing openness of market forces, advanced technology and the widespread application of the World Wide Web.

We look abroad to companies like Uber and Air-BNB where they are now worth Billions of dollars. These companies challenged the status quo and use technology to change the traditional way of engaging with customers by introducing a more convenient solutions with just a press of a button. Uber, for example, is a ride-sharing application for fast, reliable transportation. It is now available in more than 630 cities worldwide, and providing a stiff challenge to the conventional transportation businesses. The company is valued close to USD$50 Billion as of today. The irony to this success story is that Uber is a public land transportation business that does not own any vehicle!

Likewise, Air-BNB the world’s largest accommodation provider that owns no real estate. Transactions and bookings take place over the internet with the click of a button.  

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Fourth Industrial Revolution that we are now living in – Digitalization.  In this age of Digitalization, global discussions centre around smart factories, smart machines, smart food, smart cities - the use of technologies for continuous improvements and business excellence.  

This is the global trend. We have to be aware of what is happening around us and make strategic moves to stay ahead of the competition by being innovative with our products and service delivery.

The organisations that survive do so because of their ability to fine-tune their operations amidst the changes taking place around them. The challenges we face in the business environment will continue to vary with time, but I urge you all to be ready to defy the odds and make the necessary adjustments within, in order to stay afloat.

As an entrepreneur once said, and I quote: “I cannot change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Unquote.

We might not be able to control the circumstances that come our way, but we can always control how we respond to it – to achieve the best possible result.

Ladies and gentlemen, the age of digitization is not limited to apps in wealthier and more developed economies. Right here at home, I am glad that the Fijian Government is at the forefront of realising the changing trend towards the use of technology to streamline business processes.Visionary leadership that is allowing our economy and our workforce to keep pace as the world around us evolves, tapping technology to create new opportunities instead of digging in our heels and resisting change.

The Digital Government Transformation (DGT) is a multi-year programme to implement a number of government applications, enhance the overall ICT infrastructure and build and develop capacity in digital transformation in the Government. It is in line with the Fijian Government’s long-term plan, which calls for the steady improvement of the quality and accessibility of government services. This programme sees Fiji partnering with the pioneering Singaporean Government to promote innovative e-services in Government. This will also help with business process re-engineering.

For the past few months, the Government through the state owned Walesi Limited has launched Free WiFi in all the major cities and towns in Fiji. This, joined by universal satellite coverage for free-to-air television throughout all of Fiji, is part of the first phase towards the vision of creating a Digital Fiji where public service is more accessible and convenient for all Fijians. 

Additionally, the opening of tele-centers in various remote locations around the country is aimed at enabling children and the public around these communities to have access to e-services. Fiji’s digital transformation is supported by the recent launching of the Southern Cross cable at Savusavu in September.This is about more than browsing the internet or watching television –– it is about cultivating a more informed, connected, and civically-active population that will benefit our nation for generations to come. And other Government programmes, like the eTransport initiative, are eliminating corruption while simultaneously allowing data on riding trends to be collected so bus fares can be calculated in a fair and transparent matter. This harnessing of data through digitization has already paved the way for the expansion of free transport for the disabled and pensioners –– some of Fiji’s most vulnerable populations. 

Ladies and gentlemen, while we think of ways to remain competitive in this new digitalization era, we must also be mindful to act with a high level of integrity. I say this because it is natural to have the drive to grow our business, or to achieve our targets, to earn that bonus, or to be the best in what we do.  However, with this highly competitive business environment, the lure to cut corners, omit information, and do whatever it takes to get ahead, occur every day. 

I want to remind you all this evening that these practices erode the trust that needs to exist between employers and the workforce, between the business and customers, between executives, board members and shareholders. Without trust, the business will not be able to function and compete effectively.

All organizations represented here this evening should take the lead role in demonstrating respect for key moral principles that include honesty, fairness, equality, dignity, diversity and individual rights.

May I add that in Fiji, the majority of our population are millennials. It is widely known that the millennial generation is more philanthropic in nature. Therefore, customers of today anticipate businesses to be more responsible, and accountable in all their activities. As your customer base grows to be dominated by millennials, you’ll soon find it not only good ethics, but good business, to run your organizations with integrity. I urge you to take proactive steps in preparing not only your bottom line, but the Fijian economy, for the values-based future of tomorrow, today.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are two other pressing issues I wish to raise with you tonight. The first is our common responsibility towards the environment. The impact of the growing threat of climate change is real and is evident by the growing number and severity of climate related hazards occurring around the world, including what we have experienced here in Fiji. 

As we celebrate tonight, we must keep in mind that the onus to mitigate climate-related natural disasters must not be seen as the sole responsibility of Government and NGOs since climate change is boarder-less – it affects us all, no matter where we reside.

Businesses should also take the lead role in valuing and safeguarding the environment and the community they operate in, through the implementation of strategic corporate and social responsibility programmes. Our local organisations should also consider the promotion and introduction of environmentally-friendly technologies, processes and raw materials. 

We should support initiatives like reducing the use of plastics that are known to contribute to environmental degradation. In fact, whatever the scope of contribution we undertake for the environment contributes to the bigger picture. There is no other way that the world can address climate change but through the involvement of all individuals, governments and businesses. 

I am very pleased to learn that an increasing number of organizations in Fiji are undertaking the important role of implementing environmental-friendly processes through Green Productivity projects – which is passionately promoted by NTPC and the Asian Productivity Organisation. This approach is not only environmentally-friendly, but is proven to benefit organizations of any type and size in terms of increasing efficiency in their use of resources, and in reducing costs.    

Ladies and gentlemen, I also wish to raise the issue of Non-Communicable Diseases with you –– as it, like climate change, is a plague on both our quality of life and our productivity –– and to invite you all to join me in taking bold action to reduce NCDs. NCDs currently account for over 80 percent of deaths of Fijians under the age of 70 years. You will agree with me that this is our most productive age group. However, our people are dying young from NCD-related illnesses. As Fiji’s Lead Advocate and Champion in the national campaign to reduce NCDs, I encourage you to join me by eating healthy foods and exercising daily. I have every confidence that a healthy population will have a direct bearing on our overall productivity.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I conclude, I want to thank you all for your contribution towards our economy. I am particularly proud of how resilient we have been and of how far we have come in terms of economic growth and development. The Fijian economy has been growing for the past nine years and is forecasted to continue along this trajectory. I urge you all to continue to strive for nothing short of excellence in everything you do in order for us to keep this momentum going way into the future.

Congratulations to all the award recipients this evening. This is your night, enjoy it and consider it as a stepping-stone towards greater heights in your Business Excellence journey. 

On the same note, I encourage other organisations in Fiji to take on the challenge and apply for recognition in the 2019 Fiji Business Excellence Awards.

I thank you all for your attention, and I thank the Vice Chancellor of the Fiji National University, Professor Nigel Healey, for the invitation for me to join you tonight. 

May Almighty God continue to bless our beloved country and all Fijians. 

 Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.