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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Ping at the Opening Ceremony for Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road
January 11, 2016

Honorable Prime Minister Bainimarama,

Honorable Ministers, Commissioner of Northern Division,

Respected Vice President Guo Wei of China Railway First Group,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon and Nisa Bula!

It gives me great pleasure to visit Vanua Levu at the beginning of the New Year and join the Honorable Prime Minister and all the distinguished guests in witnessing this long awaited moment of the official opening of Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road. I feel the same excitement and joy as everyone present here. First of all, please allow me to extend, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy, warm congratulations on the successful completion of this Extension Project and the official opening of this Road.

Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road Extension Project is a major infrastructure development project in Vanua Levu. It is the single largest road project in Fiji funded by Chinese concessional loan. It was constructed by the China Railway First Group (Fiji) Company Ltd, whose parent company is a world-renowned Chinese construction group with a well reputed record in both international and domestic markets. During the 3 years of construction period, China Railway First Group (Fiji) Company not only managed to complete the project in high quality, within the time frame and within the budget, but also did a good job in undertaking its corporate social responsibilities by creating job opportunities, providing training for local residents and extending a helping hand to the local communities. Their unremitting pursuit for high engineering standards, good craftsmanship, work efficiency and devotion for public good made this project another good example of China-Fiji friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Infrastructure-building lays the foundation for one country’s sustainable and long term economic development. Over the last 5 consecutive years, Fiji’s economy witnessed an average 4 percent of growth, a considerable part of it was contributed by the increased investment in the infrastructure sector. Honorable Prime Minister Bainimarama and Fijian government attach great importance to the development of the infrastructure and have successfully launched and implemented a number of key infrastructure projects in Fiji over the recent years. Planning on long term infrastructure development is also under way, which shows the vision and leadership of the Honorable Prime Minister and the Fijian Government in building a modernized country.

Being a country which understands the importance of infrastructure development and has benefited immensely from it, China shares the desire of the Fijian people for improving its infrastructure. Over the past decades, the Chinese government has provided a great deal of assistance, in the form of grants or concessional loans, to support Fiji’s infrastructure development. Chinese companies, including China Railway First Group, have made great contributions to the successful implementation of various infrastructure projects in Fiji. Up till now, Chinese companies have constructed a total length of over 170 km of roads in Fiji, most of which are under China’s funding. Among all the road projects constructed by Chinese companies, Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road is the longest one.

The opening of this Road will bring tremendous social and economic benefits to Vanua Levu. It not only connects towns, villages and scenic spots, making it more convenient for local residents and foreign tourists to travel from place to place, but also brings more economic opportunities to the Island, which is vital to the revitalization of the Northern region.

I was told that, even before the road was tar-sealed, the local taxi drivers found their business earnings had doubled. They could take more trips with less time. This is a typical illustration of the saying, “to get rich, build the road first”, or the other one, which says, “ time means money ”.

I take great pride that China has contributed its part to the economic revitalization of the Northern region. Apart from the Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road, China Railway First Group (Fiji) Company has also constructed Buca Bay Road, which is another road project using Chinese concessional loans. China’s Shangdong International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group is collaborating with the Fijian Ministry of Agriculture on a China grant rice cultivation project in Dreketi, with the aim of achieving rice self sufficiency in Fiji.

China stands ready to do more for the economic and social development of Fiji by aligning China’s aid programs with Fiji’s long term development plan. We encourage our Fijian friends to make full use of the concessional loans and special loans earmarked for infrastructure-building offered by the Chinese Government for the South Pacific Island Countries. We will also encourage more well-established Chinese companies to invest in Fiji. We will actively promote South-South cooperation to implement 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We look forward to working more closely with our Fijian friends to bring into full play Fiji’s potentials not only as a regional hub, but also as a regional economic power house.

Thank you. Vinaka.

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