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Opening of the 18th Common Wealth Heads of Valuation Agencies (Chova) Conference.

July 19, 2017       Sofitel Fiji Resort, Nadi

The Chairman of the 18th Commonwealth Heads of Valuation Agencies Conference, and Chief Valuer for Fiji, Mr. Teke Ka’ake
The Heads of Valuation Agencies of the Commonwealth
Distinguished guests
Ladies & Gentlemen

Ni sa Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

I am deeply honoured to join you this evening to open the 2017 Commonwealth Heads of Valuation Agencies Conference.

I am pleased to learn that you have just been accorded a traditional Fijian ceremony of welcome. On behalf of the Fijian Government and the Fijian people I wish to add to that my personal welcome, as well as that of my wife, Sarote.

Bula Vinaka once again to all of you who are visiting our shores for the first time, and welcome back to those who have been here before.

Fiji is pleased to host the 2017 Commonwealth Heads of Valuation Agencies Conference. We have been looking forward to hosting this important event since we placed our bid at the 2014 Conference in Canada.

Your conference provides another wonderful opportunity to showcase the beauty of our islands and our world-class facilities, which together make us more than capable of hosting international meetings of this scale.

I have been told that we are the first country in the Oceania region to host the Commonwealth Heads of Valuation Agencies Conference. We are honoured to do so, especially on behalf of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS).

Fiji today is a robust and dynamic island economy, and that is due to a consistent vision from the Fijian Government to transform our nation through sustainable, market-driven policies that have created a solid foundation for economic growth.

We are well aware that the global economy revolves around the use of land, natural resources, properties and other assets, and we have tapped those same forces in Fiji as part of our economic agenda, which has led to our achievement of eight consecutive years of economic growth.

One example of how we have done that is through Fiji’s Land Bank policy, which ensures that landowners receive leases that are valued at the current market rate. Landowners also receive 100 per cent of lease monies. On the flip side of the coin, the tenants are able to secure long-term leases of up to 99 years, so that they can feel secure on the land they reside on and make long-term investments that benefit themselves and the generations that follow. Fiji’s Land Bank policy is a non-zero sum game. It empowers landowners and tenants alike, and the ultimate winner is the Fijian economy.

As members of the valuation profession, this policy has particular relevance for all of you, because the model relies on accurate and up-to-date information on the value of land and land resources. And beyond our own borders, all throughout the developing world, as countries introduce and expand valuation legislation and accelerate land development, we are seeing a growing demand for professional expertise in valuation.

That speaks directly to the importance of this conference. You are all here as part of a shared vision to improve your profession and adapt to the challenges and opportunities in the modern market.

Over the next two days, you will share experiences, discuss the latest trends in research and, ultimately, work to redefine the role of valuation in a modern economy.

This conference also provides an opportunity for Government Valuers to deepen your cooperation with state actors to determine the value of properties – vital work that helps determine municipal ratings, property taxes, asset values, compensation and a range of other functions essential to comprehensive and effective land management. That work does not only impact valuers, it also extends to real estate agents, property developers and estate managers. All of whom need to work alongside governments to sustainably manage land resources.

Valuation must be at the core of socioeconomic development for every nation, as it is one of the best ways to ensure that economic growth is equitable and effective. And valuation services must be in line with internationally accepted practices and standards if we are to accurately gauge the value of land relative to the rest of the global real estate market. And when we do have accurate, detailed information, we cannot only use that as a measure of how far an economy has come, but as a predictor for where it is headed.

All that considered, it is also essential that valuers have the expertise and knowledge to operate in local markets. International qualifications are essential, but not sufficient. Without knowledge of the local market, valuations can’t contribute effectively to a stable real estate sector.

Not even a decade ago, the global economy faced catastrophe due to poor regulation and management in the real estate sector. And I don’t have to explain in great detail how damaging poor regulation of real estate markets can be for a nation’s development. Of course, when properly managed it can be a source of enormous economic prosperity, but that does not come without some risks. And we need to apply a systemic approach and commit ourselves to reliable property valuation if we are to ensure healthy and balanced real estate markets throughout the Commonwealth.

When parties to a real estate transaction do not have reliable information that can have disastrous consequences for the national and global economy. That is why valuation needs to be unbiased and independent, and your industry needs to ensure that standardised, up-to-date and accurate information is available to governments, individuals and the private sector. That cannot happen if old models are applied to modern, transforming real estate markets. We need greater specialisation in functions that are likely to rise in demand in the real estate sector, and we need a shared commitment from commonwealth nations to map a clear way forward to set high standards in valuation.

For that reason, I am glad to see that you have chosen the Conference theme of “Shaping the Valuation Profession”, as it captures the growing need to adapt your profession to modern realities, particularly in developing economies.

As Heads of Valuation Agencies, you play a pivotal role in driving economic growth throughout the commonwealth. You provide information to governments that is essential for formulating policies and regulating the real estate sector. No doubt, a tremendous responsibility, and one that should always be respected and that should always be carried out to the highest professional standards.

During your deliberations, I encourage you to keep in mind the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly how your profession can contribute to ending poverty at the national and global levels. Stable land ownership and property rights are both proven vehicles for social mobility, and properly valuing land is critical to building policy solutions that give ordinary men and women the opportunity to make productive use of their land and land resources. So the members of your profession have an important role to play as the global community works to empower the disadvantaged and raise standards of living around the world.

Your past conferences have served as excellent examples of how we can build mutual understanding amongst the Commonwealth member nations. And as we look to the future, we need to deepen those ties if we are to effectively assess the merits of various policies, programmes and frameworks against potential economic, social and environmental impacts and, ultimately, achieve sustainable and resilient development.

As members of the Commonwealth, we share a common background due to our historic links to the British Monarchy. Our civil administration practices, legal, judicial and educational systems are similar. And so it should make sense that we share our knowledge and strengthen our networks to be on par with, if not ahead of, the rest of the world.

In any case, we are all required to adapt to the inevitable changes that accompany modernisation. And, so too must you continuously reinvent yourselves and your profession.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are all aware that the world is having to confront the single biggest threat facing humanity – that of climate change.

Climate change is not some perceived threat. It is already affecting low-lying and vulnerable countries in the Pacific and around the world. Climate change knows no barriers and no profession will be exempt from its consequences. So all members of society are expected to play their part as we collectively address this real and present threat to humanity.

As we all know, Fiji is set to preside over the ongoing United Nations climate negotiations at COP23 this November in Bonn, Germany.  And we are looking forward to the support of the international community, and especially that of the Commonwealth member nations, as we lead the campaign for global action to confront the challenges of climate change.

I have every confidence that the outcomes of this conference will allow you to develop an integrated platform to address all the key issues facing the valuation profession and the world today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I deem it an honour and great pleasure to open the 2017 Commonwealth Heads of Valuation Agencies conference.

May you have a resoundingly successful meeting. And for our visitors, I encourage you to take time to enjoy the hospitality that Fiji has to offer and hope that you come visit us again sometime soon.

Thank you and vinaka vakalevu, and may Almighty God bless you all.