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Opening of the Fiji Institute of Accountants 47th Annual Congress

May 24, 2019       Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa

The President of the Fiji Institute of Accountants, Mr. Zarin Khan;
Fiji Institute of Accountants Council and Members;
Distinguished Speakers;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
The Congress Sponsors;
The Chiefs and people of the Vanua Vakaturaga o Nadroga;
Members of the Media;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ni sa bula vinaka, cola vina’a, namaste, asalaam alaykum and a very good morning to you all!

It is indeed a great honour and pleasure to be invited again this year to officiate over the 47th Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress 2019.

Let me begin by acknowledging the Fiji Institute of Accountants for again organising another Congress that aims to bring many professionals and industry leaders to a venue to discuss, listen, inspire and most importantly participate through sharing your own experiences to do better and to be better at what you do! This is our “Shared Vision for a Brighter Future”, a future for every Fijian, a future of sustainability, of resilience and a future that prioritises humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are only too aware of the many challenges that we are faced with today as individuals, as organisations, as a community and as a nation and I believe that we are at a critical crossroad and our decisions today will certainly shape the future we want to have.

To ensure that we achieve a brighter future, we need to embrace change and take on many of the pressing challenges including Climate Change, Urbanisation, Resource Depletion and Health Care to name a few. The perception that dealing with these challenges is the sole responsibility of the Government is in my humble opinion, no longer proper nor viable.

It is simply everyone’s responsibility to think and plan for a better future: for themselves and our future generations. This is a call to action and we need to find our place and our purpose in this journey into a more peaceful and prosperous Fiji.

Therefore, the theme for this year’s Fiji Institute of Accountants 2019 Congress is most fitting and timely: “PRIORITISING HUMANITY”, through innovative solutions to meet these challenges. The Congress theme may be simply seen as valuing the importance of being humane above all things. And in today’s fast paced world filled with technological advances, face to face social interaction should hopefully lead us to a better and longer life? And that is perhaps why women, who tend to prioritise spending time with loved ones more than men, live an average of six years longer.

We should all know when to turn off our smartphones to enrich our lives. How does the idea of a vacation with interruption from work sound? A novel idea but we should all try to set definite rules about when to use technology. Life definitely becomes richer and more colourful when you stop those “digital dinners.”

Ladies and gentlemen, what really matters is chasing meaning, not happiness.  Constantly evaluating our own happiness actually contributes to feelings of hopelessness and depression. So finding something that motivates and drives you forward is a crucial factor of having meaning: it may be work or something else? Author Emily Esafahani Smith in her book “The Power of Meaning” says “We are authors of our stories and we can change how we are telling them. Your life is not just a list of events.” [Source: Colby Itkowitz “Prioritising things to improve your life – and maybe even save it”].

Ladies and Gentlemen, earlier this month Fiji hosted the largest meeting ever to be held in Fiji: the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank Board of Governors held from 01-05 May that was attended by almost 3,000 delegates from more than 80 different countries. Where many doubted, Fiji showed the world that we are able to host an event of such magnitude and I believe that it is with the sheer determination and commitment made not only by Government but by the many support organisations, volunteers, sponsors, civil society and donors that it was made possible.

I share this with you because that is what we all can achieve collectively…together, holding hands and moving forward towards our common goals. With a shared vision and our collective efforts we can make a brighter future for all Fijians. ------“A Fiji Where No One will be left behind’!”  

Fiji’s Prime Minister, the Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama had reminded us in his address at the opening of the same meeting that “Fiji has set out and stuck with a bold vision for our national progress. United in realising that future, the Fijian people have spurred our economy to ten straight years of economic growth, a new record for Fiji.  And we – a nation of 900,000 people – have earned ourselves a proud reputation as a champion for the cause of sustainable development”. Punching above our weight indeed!

These are not only bold words but a promise that as a small island nation, we persevere, we dedicate, we work hard, we are determined and we deliver. And with that in mind, let us continue to engage, to share, to learn and to collectively work towards our common goals.

Over these two days the Congress will see seven experts speak to you on various topics from Climate Change, Leadership, Resources (Availability and Management), Artificial Intelligence, Lifestyle and Culture. These stem primarily from the focus of this year’s Congress: “Inspire, Empower and Innovate”.

To INSPIRE is to think about our possible future and the implications for our nation. How can we create a sense of purpose and encourage ownership and action through a shared vision which paints a compelling picture of our future? A vision that takes into account the aspirations, dreams and values of our people. It is about forging our common purpose, our shared vision.

To EMPOWER is to look at our pressing challenges and think critically and strategically about how to turn our challenges into opportunities. The question then becomes: how do we learn and grow from our challenges instead of becoming paralysed by them? It is clear that the status quo is no longer an option and we need to develop new approaches and empower our younger generations to lead and build a better future.

This is about strengthening our character, supporting each other, building trust and most importantly, it is about being united as a People and Nation. And to INNOVATE is to gain competitive advantage that will help us achieve sustainable growth. We should focus on developing local innovation capacity to address challenges specific to our local context. We need to explore effective ways to support and encourage local innovation.

In accepting our vulnerabilities we must explore opportunities and in view of this, I consider it prudent that in such forums as you interact and deliberate on pertinent issues with colleagues, you will no doubt discover and formulate new and hopefully, better and brighter innovative prospects for our future as a young and developing independent sovereign State.

One of the mission statements of the FIA is “to commit yourselves to a strong, active and devoted sense of duty to our members and communities”.  The Institute has seen a number of initiatives which support this.

The new Women in Leadership series is aimed at promoting women to key leadership roles by providing them with opportunities to listen to and interact with women who can share their experiences and journeys by inspiring confidence. With women making up 49% of the population from the 2017 Census it is clear that women are still not proportionately represented in leadership positions. However we all know that female longevity speaks for itself especially in the age groups above 60 years, so women have the staying power to see this turn around.

The inaugural event of this quarterly series was a great success. I am told that the June 2019 events in Suva and Nadi have generated a lot of interest already. This shows that the vision of having more women in leadership roles is definitely a shared goal for the betterment of our country.

The Institute has been active in raising its profile within the region amongst Accounting organisations in Pacific countries.

The Pacific Collaboration Initiative has used FIA as a benchmark in many areas and I am very proud to say that Fiji is the Chair of this group. Again we see a situation where Fijians are able to achieve more towards a common goal by working together.

The FIA has a membership of just over 800 members but still able to assist other Accounting organisations, even those with membership numbers larger than their own. Additionally the FIA has been working with the Confederation of Asia and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) to look at ways to collectively harvest synergies so that all Pacific Accounting organisations can all benefit from strategic partners’ assistance in identified areas of need.

The FIA has also increased its profile in recent years at international conferences and other events.
Networking during these meetings and forums are of great value for the Institute moving forward and I thoroughly encourage the Institute to continue to concentrate on as the potential benefits available to FIA and indeed to Fiji are immense. This is one way to brand Fiji internationally and work together for the betterment of the Accounting profession in the region as well as within each of our respective countries.

The younger generation is not forgotten and the Institute awards the top Accounting Year 13 students in line with the Institute’s strategic initiative of creating awareness for future members and building the FIA brand in Fiji and the region.  As the professional accounting body the FIA has a responsibility to encourage and nurture more students to take up Accounting and work towards a career in Accounting.

The FIA will continue with this annual award as part of their contribution to education in Fiji. The tertiary students are also not ignored and FIA awards are also available. The Institute’s long standing recognition of the achievement of exceptional Accounting graduates and this demonstrates FIA’s commitment in assisting the nation to respond to issues of shortage of critical skills.

Before I conclude, I wish to acknowledge the FIA President, Mr. Zarin Khan, the Council Members and the Secretariat, Mr. Rajeshwar Singh and your Hardworking Committee for organising a successful Congress. Congratulations and well done.

The list of delegates is an impressive gathering of the Who’s Who in Fiji. Thank you to the major sponsors Vodafone Fiji and Westpac Banking Corporation for their ongoing support to the Institute and specifically for the Congress. And thank you also to all the other support sponsors for their assistance to make this event possible.To you ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attendance and attention. I wish you well and every success in your deliberations over the next two days.

And with these words it gives me great pleasure to officially open the 47th FIA Congress.

Vinaka vakalevu, dhanyavaad, thank you and may Almighty God bless you all and our beloved Fiji.