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November 8, 2016
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Now that he has appointed himself Minister for Foreign Affairs, it is clear that Frank will become even more of an Absentee PM for the remainder of this Parliament’s life. This is despite him being voted in supposedly by 202,459 citizens, who presumably expect him for the most part to stay home and lead. His $328,750 per annum salary is for that purpose.

But I suppose it’s hard to resist his new $2,791 per day travel allowance which by the way is more than $1 million a year if he’s away for 12 months, or $19,591 for each week he travels. So when you factor in his salary, the PM will pick up $25,913 a week whenever he’s away. That is equal to 242 workers wages each week based on his Government’s minimum.

Frank is giving us a lesson in what enrichment means and stands out as a prime symbol of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. The question that now comes to centre stage with even more urgency and relevance is: who is in control of Fiji?

We all know that with increasing frequency Acting Prime Minister Sayed-Khaiyum has been in effective political control and is Fiji’s defacto PM. And as someone with many enemies he has had to fend off internal attempts to break the bond between him and Bainimarama. It is that bond from which Sayed-Khaiyum draws his power and in my view the moment that Kai-Bai bond is broken his political control and career will be over.

Those who have already dared to challenge his standing with Frank, have failed and have either been tossed out or moved aside. Even the mighty military fear him. He has beaten them every time he has faced a challenge from QEB.

As I have said previously about Hon Sayed-Khaiyum, he is a purpose driven individual and skilled political operator. His purpose is to feed his addiction to power and to retain his grip on his position for as long as he can.

In order to ensure ‘absolute’ control, he has to strategically place in key positions those he trusts the most. This ensures his commands and wishes are obeyed and implemented without question.

To determine the extent of the control the Acting Prime Minister has so skillfully established I carried out a brief research on a selection of government, quasi government and other entities that I consider important both strategically and economically.

It was not easy to get all of the latest data on some of these organizations including board memberships because information available is not necessarily current. I make the point therefore that I believe the details listed below were accurate at the time I obtained them. So if some appointments have changed but are yet to be updated, then the chairmanships listed may change slightly. That said, this is what I found:

Just 11 men control 18 companies/organizations that have a combined annual revenue of $6.7 billion which represents 68% of Fiji’s $9.8 billion GDP. This is probably the greatest concentration of power held by a few that has ever been assembled in Fiji’s history. Those who exercise it are the new elite, part of the inner circle of authority. I make no judgement what so ever on the suitability of any of the appointees listed.

What I believe is more crucial to determine is whether any of the appointees are caught in any potential ‘conflicts of interest’ or situations of nepotism.

Not only is it important for the people to know, it should be in the best interest of the appointees themselves and in any event, these entities should all be adopting ‘best practices’ as well as operating accountably and transparently.

Examples that could give rise to ‘conflicts’

Mr. Dinesh Patel. He is chairman of Fiji Roads Authority, presiding over a budget of $527.1 million that goes towards road construction and repairs. He is also managing director of RC Manubhai a major provider of hardware and no doubt a big supplier to Higgins and other FRA sub contractors. I assume his company is one of the hardware stores ‘selected’ to supply materials for cyclone relief. Does Mr. Patel have a conflict?

Mr. Ajith Kodagoda is the chief financial Officer of CJ Patel, which owns the Fiji Sun, the government’s No 1 propaganda machine. The publicity shy Mr. Kodagoda wields the greatest power of all those listed. He also chairs five other major organizations which contribute $3.1 billion or 47% of the total revenue listed. Is there a conflict here?

How many of the chairs operate their own company’s that have dealings with the organizations they chair?

How many of the chairs personally or through their own companies, financially support the Fiji First Party?

These potential areas of conflicts of interest is something the Transparency and Accountability Commission should be looking into. But don’t hold your breath.

One thing is crystal clear; a lot of power has been placed into the hands of a select few. The promise by Bainimarama to the people that there would only be one person appointed to one board was just another lie.

Source – Mick Beddoes FB; Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM

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