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“Fiji’s Colonial Development and Underdevelopment: a critique of the Knapman thesis”


[Published in The Contemporary Pacific, Vol.2, No.1, pp. 208-213 and  Journal of Pacific Studies, Vol.16, pp. 91-106.]


In the development literature, there is no shortage of studies which conclude that colonialism was the major cause of underdevelopment of colonies. Thus, Palme Dutt (1957), Barratt Brown (1970), Brett (1973), and Bagchi (1982), while having different emphases on the contributory mechanisms, generally agree that colonialism resulted in the commanding heights of the colonial economies being dominated by expatriate capitals, who had preferential access to colonial resources which were denied to indigenous groups.

The colonies were thereby subordinately integrated into the imperial economy: where industry had existed, an effective deindustrialization took place; colonial markets were taken over, while the production and consumption patterns of the colonial economy were restructured and geared for exports of mainly primary products to, and imports from, the metropolitan economy; industrialization, except of the most elementary form, was discouraged; wages were artificially kept low in order to bolster profits; and far from capital freely entering the colonies, the pattern was that, on balance, capital was extracted from them.

All this also implied the almost complete neglect of domestic consumption needs and welfare services such as education and health. Economic development in colonies therefore stagnated for most of the colonial period.

The above view also has its opponents. Thus Warren (1980:9) argued that “direct colonialism, far from having retarded or distorted indigenous capitalist development that might otherwise have occurred, acted as a powerful engine of progressive social change, advancing capitalist development far more rapidly than was conceivable in any other way”. Warren (1980:154) asserted that there were no real market causes of underdevelopment and no conscious acts by a state actively creating underdevelopment, while the “backwash effects” of colonialism actually represented the “uneven development of capitalism”.

Fieldhouse (1983:104,105), also argued that the colonies’ lack of development was symptomatic of  any region’s uneven development under capitalism, whether in the metropole or in the colony: “formal colonies were in much the same position as any other less developed society, even if politically independent”.

Both the above schools of thought are represented in studies of Fiji’s colonial economic history. A 1987 monograph by Bruce Knapman, “Fiji’s Economic History, 1874-1939.  Studies of capitalist colonial development, which is a revised version of his earlier doctoral thesis (Knapman:1983), may roughly be placed in the Warrenite camp.

The central objective of Knapman was to examine the (1987:v) “spread, functioning and impact of capitalism during the first sixty five years of British colonial rule”. There are six chapters which address capitalist export growth, continuity and change in the “non-capitalist economy”, the demise of the white sugar planters, the shipping dependency merchant oligopoly, and monetary dependency.

The most original and interesting material is to be found firstly in the chapter on shipping dependency, which documents how shipping conferences (1987:82) “eliminated price competition in the Fiji trade by collusion between themselves, by rate wars against rival lines, and by use of the deferred rate system” and through monopoly pricing, were able to keep ”Fiji freight rates up while world ocean freight rates went down.

Equally original is the chapter on merchant oligopoly which examines, through a study of the dominant merchant company, Burns Philp, the nature of oligopolistic competition and the attempts, some successful and some failed, at cartels in Fiji’s commerce.

The second chapter oddly, however, mixes together Fiji’s export performance with a description of the over-riding dominance of the Fiji economy by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Similarly, the chapter on monetary dependency and the political economy of exchange rate policy, focuses narrowly on the 1929-33 exchange rate fluctuations.

Also omitted from the study is any analysis of the important gold mines, whose entire labor force comprised indigenous Fijians, and which has been studied by Bain (1986). This failure to study the most important grouping of indigenous Fijian proletarians, perhaps because the industry was in its infancy, is unfortunate since chapter 3 covers diverse aspects of indigenous Fijian involvement in the economy.  This chapter, while having some interesting information, does not adequately address the specific (changing) nature of Fijians’ integration into Fiji’s capitalist economy (see below).

The omissions above may possibly be explained by the theoretical objectives of the author. In this monograph and in articles published previously, Knapman scathingly criticizes the (1985:80) “local exponent(s) of the underdevelopment thesis” and (1986:95) “resident radicals (with  their) anti-imperialist analysis and propaganda”, who (this author included) have argued that Fiji’s economic underdevelopment may be largely attributed to the nature of the colonial economy created by the imperial power and dominant expatriate capitals.

Knapman’s analysis is thus largely directed towards his conclusion that (1987:142) Fiji’s “relatively undisturbed colonial history, 1874-1939, was not the only history that could have occurred.  It was simply that most preferred in the circumstances”.

However, while Knapman’s central objective is to study the “spread, functioning and impact of capitalism”, the chapters are disjointed from each other and have one major weakness: there is no real systematic analysis of the development (or what others have called underdevelopment) of capitalism in Fiji, as has been so ably done for East Africa by Brett (1973), and as Narayan (1984) and Sutherland (1984) have attempted for Fiji.

Given the nature of Fiji’s resources, one might have expected more focused discussion of the development (or underdevelopment) of agriculture, agro-based industrialization, the entrepreneurship, the monetary and financial system, and the education and health systems- all of which are usually considered necessary components of successful capitalist growth in most such economies.

Nevertheless, the individual chapters show evidence of quite extensive research through official and private company records. These, ironically, provide additional evidence to support other studies such as Gillion (1977), Samy (1977), Narsey (1979, 1986), Moynagh (1981), Sutherland (1984), Durutalo (1985) and Bain (1986), which suggest that the path of capitalist development in Fiji was “most preferred” only from the point of view of the large expatriate capitals operating in Fiji, and the imperial rulers.

Thus, despite his central theoretical thrust, Knapman agrees with most of Moynagh’s conclusions about the detrimental effects on Fiji’s economic development, resulting from the operations of the dominant Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR): agricultural diversification did not occur in Fiji largely because CSR, in its own interest in land and labor use, opposed any such developments; the minimum wages and cane price policies implemented so successfully because of CSR’s dominance of the labor market and its monopsony powers in buying cane, maximized profits which were exported rather than invested locally, effectively stifling domestic expenditure and demand.

It is odd that Knapman concludes from all this (1987:129) that “Fiji’s development potential would have been greater if it had been a country of temperate settlement instead of a tropical colonial economy”. Does this imply a climate theory of underdevelopment or is there a distinction being made between a country of ”settlement- (white dominions?) and a proper ”colonial economy?

While Moynagh was more skeptical about the accuracy of profits declared by companies such as CSR, Knapman is more trusting, although he acknowledges that in periods, substantial profits were made but understated. More importantly, Knapman also disregards Moynagh’s valid observation (1981:253) that in terms of the significance for Fiji’s economy, what counted was “not profits as a percentage return on investment but the total cash surpluses which CSR could remit abroad”, and the effects on investment and growth in Fiji.

The same argument would apply to the other large expatriate enterprises which dominated the Fiji economy and invested abroad most of their profits, which all writers acknowledge were a large proportion of total investible surplus in Fiji.        Knapman unfortunately refrains from contrasting the widely differing manner in which companies like CSR were controlled by the respective governments in Fiji and Australia with respect to taxation, shares of gross sugar proceeds, cane prices, wages and working conditions as others have partly attempted to do (Narsey:1979).

Yet these were precisely the factors which were important in reducing to a minimum the long term benefits of foreign investment to Fiji, while in Australia they obviously were considered to be necessary for Australian development.  If we accept in Fiji, Knapman’s reiteration of Warren’s argument that colonial underdevelopment may be attributed to ”insufficient- capitalist investment and development, then this also raises questions which Knapman’s monograph does not ask at all, either in the national context or in terms of international flows of capital within the wider British Empire (including the white dominions).

Firstly, why did there not occur capitalist development, perhaps fostered by the imperial and colonial government, based upon indigenous Fijian, Indo-Fijian and Sino-Fijian entrepreneurs, especially the latter two groups who had historically amply demonstrated their ability to be more cost-efficient than their European counterparts?   Knapman does not have a satisfactory analysis of the failure of the colonial and imperial government to foster capitalist development amongst Fijians.

Thus while Knapman gives the impression that colonial administrators (1987:26) “aimed at a controlled and gentle integration of Fijians into the world capitalist economy”, he also observes, without further analysis, that a major early attempt at Fijian commercial enterprise failed not only because “political independence from chiefs and white rulers was anathema to the strained ruling alliance” but “economic independence was anathema to white planters and merchants who resented Fijian business rivalry” (1987:42).

Aspects such as the use of the best Fijian land by non-Fijians, the rise and fall of the indigenous Fijian banana industry (failure in part contributed by restrictions in Australia and New Zealand), the role of Fijian subsistence agriculture in minimizing living costs and hence real wages of urban workers, the inordinately greater taxation of Fijians (without corresponding benefits) in order to subsidize the early years of colonization (a pattern found in numerous other colonies), and the treatment of Fijian workers in the gold mining industry, would all suggest that the imperial rulers were not particularly inclined towards the “gentle” introduction of Fijians to western capitalism.

Knapman’s patchy sections on indigenous Fijian involvement in the colonial economy, might be contrasted with the more analytical studies by Samy (1977), Durutalo (1985), Sutherland (1984) and Bain (1986), although the latter might all be classified by Knapman as “resident radicals” engaging in “propaganda” rather than cold objective analysis.

Knapman’s chapter on monetary dependency similarly does not discuss the relative inactivity of the financial sector in fostering capitalist development in Fiji. For most of the colonial period, the Australasian banks in Fiji kept Fiji’s savings abroad, despite the obviously intense domestic need for finance, while the imperial power discouraged all possibilities which might have led to the emergence of a domestic financial market, however rudimentary in its initial stages. The export of colonial savings was reversed only a few years prior to independence in 1970, with financing of local companies being boosted only after the arrival of a bank from India and a more competitive American bank.

Similarly, Knapman’s chapter on merchant oligopoly reveals the tremendous suppressive power that expatriate merchant capitals had over their non-white retailers, who were potential competitors. Yet he does not ask why the financial system, perhaps prodded by an imperial power interested in capitalist growth in Fiji, did not give the non-white traders the support that they needed to grow.

It could be argued that the rapidity with which non-white entrepreneurs in Fiji have taken over from expatriate companies in certain spheres of Fiji’s economy in the post-Independence period, suggests that Knapman would probably agree with Gillion (1977) that the forces that controlled Fiji’s economy in the colonial period, were averse to fostering capitalist development based on non-white entrepreneurs.   Yet while much of Knapman’s analysis of commerce in Fiji is carried on in terms of the ethnic categories which owned capital, colonial racism is not an important factor in his analysis of development policy in Fiji, even though this factor was absolutely important in all British colonies, as is clearly indicated in the studies by Leys (1941), Brett (1973), Huttenback (1976) and numerous others.

A historical analysis of capitalist development in Fiji which makes no attempt to analyze the nascent Indo-Fijian and indigenous Fijian businesses of the era, has to be seriously flawed. Yet, even if one ignores Gillion (1977), there is much historical evidence that this factor is crucial in any study of Fiji’s economic evolution. We give here only one example from the financing of agriculture.


The racism in the financing of Fiji’s agriculture


In 1913, some Colonial civil servant had advised that the Fiji colonial government should establish Agricultural Banks or Co-Operative Societies among the Indian settlers (CO83/119: No 445, 27 October 1912.)  In a previous Despatch by the Governor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies an enclosed memorandum by McNeil had recommended that the Government should make advances to cultivators and attempt to establish Agricultural Banks. The scheme was scuttled because Immigration Department and the Executive Council in Fiji were unanimous that there was no such necessity (CO83/119).

Given the nature of political representation then, it could be surmised that important considerations in this decision may have been that the success of Indian settlers would have pushed up the prices of land and labor, and threatened the profits of CSR and the white planter class who feared being replaced by the Indians. However, while this would explain the local position, what of the colonial and imperial government who had the ultimate responsibility for fostering development in Fiji?

The Fiji Governor agreed with his Executive Council, arguing that “there was no one in the Colony who had the necessary special knowledge of Agricultural Banks and Co-Operative Credit Societies, or if there were, would be able to devote enough time to their establishment and operation to ensure their success”. London had themselves previously advised  (Secretary of State Despatch of 25 August 1913)  that there was no need to borrow an officer from India and for the scheme to go ahead, the Colony would insist on another officer being funded from

This proposal, whose salary cost would have been less than 2000 pounds per year, was evidently not found attractive by the authorities.  In contrast, the authorities were favorably disposed to schemes to assist the white planter class. An early proposal pointed out that conditions in the Fiji economy threatened the “white population with what looks like industrial extinction”.  See the interesting detailed proposal to the Colonial Government by Dyer who represented the (white) Fiji Planters (CO83/167: November 1922).  One key measure suggested was the provision of finance through a Planters’ Loan Bank, with initial funds of the order of 300,000 pounds to 400,000 pounds.

Its loans were to be restricted to new industries; loans would be provided with less than 50% security; to restrain over-free use of the loans, interest would be not less than 10%; the Government  was to guarantee the initial funds from the local banks at the market rate of interest; the Bank was to eventually become a co-operative, with shares held by the borrowers who paid back their loans.

The British Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries found the scheme eminently feasible, and the Tailevu Dairy Scheme came into existence, encouraging the settlement of white dairy farmers in a particularly rich pastoral area.  In an era when annual incomes of non-whites were less than 50 per year, the scheme allowed for £240 per year for married men, £192 per month for single men, and credit of some £2,250 per farmer.

Other historical evidence clearly shows that where the fostering of capitalist development in Fiji was concerned, it clearly mattered to the imperial authorities which ethnic category was going to be the vehicle for this development. In 1922, Fiji had requested permission to be part of the Empire Settlement Scheme, which in Australia, was then costing more than £4,500 per settler.

In July 1922, the Governor of Fiji despatched to London, a letter by H.M. Scott who was Chairman of a Special Committee on British Settlement  While the scheme was considered for other reasons, internal Colonial Office minutes (CO83/161) warned that the white races seemed to be deteriorated by tropical settlement. Another minute advised that it would be an enormous mistake to send British men to become permanent settlers in Fiji, pointing out that the “destruction of the fine white population in the West Indies was due to the importation of the Negroes” and in Fiji, whites might “find themselves forced to compete with persons in a lower stage of civilization”. Thus while the Tailevu Dairy Settlement Scheme allowed some hope of success and that the whites of the second and third generation appeared to be healthy, they had not “really come up against Indian competition; and the history of Barbados (like Fiji, non-malarial) and similar places suggest that the white peasant of British descent cannot hold his own against colored labor”.

The Minute pointed out, that in any case, all available British men suitable for peasant life were needed for Australia, Canada and New Zealand, even in Queensland, where “the climate is not better but Asiatic and Negro are excluded”.       The minute also warned that they should clarify what they wished to make of the place, “instead of the haphazard policy of the past, which looked merely to immediate cheap labor without reference to future effects”.

It seemed that while existing trends indicated that the natives were tending towards Europeanization, there was every indication that “the whites will be squeezed out by the educated Indian, and that Fiji will in time become Indian in civilization, religion, language, and no doubt, politics”. This would “make Fiji a liability rather than an asset of the Empire”. The minute firmly advised that if they wished to make Fiji “an outpost of white Australia rather than of Asia, whites must be found who can settle there permanently as agriculturalists”. Indian immigration should be stopped and Maltese migration encouraged. The Maltese were regarded as more or less English-speaking, prolific and inured to heat while the Fiji Government should arrange with the natives for permanent leases or freeholds to be made available to white settlers.

It is quite important to note that in all these, there was no discussion of the likely effects of white migration on indigenous Fijians. As Gillion (1977:198) had concluded about colonial politics in general in this period, the “enunciation of the doctrine of the paramountcy of native interests in the Empire … really served to justify continued European dominance and the exclusion of the Indians from power”.


Failure to explain the lack of local capitalist development


Knapman’s study thus has a very superficial treatment of the failure of the imperial and colonial government to foster capitalist development in Fiji. He argues (1987:135) that the colonial government was not aggressive enough or did not have enough accountants to tap a larger share of the sugar proceeds or repatriated profits.

Knapman also concluded that it was imperial “financial conservatism” which led to colonial monetary reserves and savings being invested in London despite the existence of avenues for domestic investment locally. I have shown elsewhere that British colonies in general (Narsey:1988), including Fiji (Narsey:1986) were forced into this policy precisely in order to help finance the imperial government at colonial expense while helping to stabilize the London money market.  Moreover, the sums lent to London were not only large relative to the small amounts being spent on indigenous development within the colonies but in aggregate and in crucial periods, significant relative to the external debt of Britain.

Knapman also argues that it was imperial financial conservatism which forced the colony to keep expenditure strictly within its revenue, minimize their borrowings in the London and any other money market. Yet the white settler parts of the British Empire in the same periods very successfully followed the opposite policies, and were allowed and indeed at times encouraged by the same imperial power, to be massive borrowers of capital in the London money market. These “temperate colonies” did receive substantially more foreign capital, both British and non-British and did enjoy a relatively faster capitalist development.

In Knapman’s analysis, the same imperial financial conservatism limited expenditure on education, health, infrastructure and other facilities necessary for capitalist growth. Knapman does not explain why within Fiji for most of the period under study, the per capita expenditure on the education of white children was many times the per capita expenditure on non-white children; right up till after World War II, the authorities carped at spending money on the education of even the chiefly sons of indigenous Fijians, let alone the children of the Fijian commoners; from the earliest times, the imperial authorities easily envisaged finance for white planers but not
for non-white farmers; the bulk of bank lending went disproportionately to expatriate enterprises; and similar patterns of ethnic discrimination permeated all aspects of economic, social and political power relations in Fiji.

Thus the imperial and expatriate interests vehemently resisted non-white strivings for political franchise (Gillion:1977), which could have played a role in ensuring nationalist economic policies directed towards the development of ”all- colonial inhabitants rather than only of the enfranchised, the economically powerful or the interests of the imperial power.

The imperial failure to foster capitalist development may be seen most obviously and importantly in the refusal to educate indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians to become the engineers, lawyers, chemists, physicists, teachers, bankers, administrators and other professional and skilled people without whom capitalist development is well nigh impossible. Right up to political independence in 1970, all the major capitalist enterprises, government and statutory organizations and even the prestigious government high schools, were staffed by expatriates from Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

While the metropoles and “temperate colonies” for their ”own- development wisely established universities and other tertiary educational establishments from the earliest times, “tropical” colonies like Fiji only saw a university two years before political independence in 1970.         Knapman himself has seen a whole generation of graduates emerge from the regional University of the South Pacific where he taught in the mid-1970s. In less than two decades, these local graduates have replaced expatriates in government, private sector, statutory organizations and also to a large measure (despite resistance from expatriates in the early years), in educational institutions like the University of South Pacific.  Much of whatever development has occurred in the post-independence period has in large part also depended on this newly educated labor force.           Not unexpectedly, social scientists in Fiji (as also in colonies as far apart as Guyana, Nigeria, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius) have tried to understand, beginning with early studies such as Rokotuivuna et al (1973), the nature of their people’s economic, political and social backwardness, especially when contrasted with white settler colonies of similar vintage.

While Knapman contemptuously describes these studies as anti-imperialist propaganda by resident radicals, Robertson (1986) has described the nature of this recent blossoming as a “genuine people’s history [which escapes] the false `people’s histories’ concerned solely with the articulate and the elite”, or one might add, those histories uncritically based on the records, documents and views of the dominant classes, and the analysis of their interests.             In most of these colonies, much of the responsibility for the underdevelopment in the colonial period (though not all) has been very naturally attributed fro the colonial period, to the imperial/colonial government and economic interests ”which actually wielded power- over the non-white people for a century.

Some evidence might be seen in the relatively more rapid development of capitalism (whether this implies development of the majority of Fiji’s inhabitants is of course another question), ”albeit necessarily accompanied by major problems-, achieved in the relatively short periods after political independence.

While Knapman thought that imperial government, after one century of rule in Fiji, made its “firmest contribution to foundations for future development by creating physical infrastructure” (1987:136), there is no evidence that this was directed towards the development of the local inhabitants, while Moynagh and others have concluded that local benefit was minimal.

Equally importantly, the recent traumatic events indicate that imperial rulers had also created a time bomb, with such volatile fuses as the “historically created marginalization of indigenous Fijians from commerce in the economy, marginalization of working people from the political processes, deep political and social divides feeding on poverty, unemployment and racial prejudices, and relations of power which have generally tended to continue what some would call “neocolonial” economic policies (see Samy:1977 and Sutherland:1984).

Knapman’s conclusions possibly derive from his study’s perception of only three possible options for colonial development in Fiji: “evolution in isolation or a superior form of foreign dominated capitalist development… (or) an attempt at large-scale white settler development founded on dispossession and forced rural proletarianization of Fijians” (1987:139). He fails to discuss possible capitalist development based on the numerically superior indigenous and Indo-Fijians in the colony.

However, if one accepts that the imperial and colonial government will foster the interests of dominant expatriate capitals who will be allowed to implement their desired wages and prices policies; these will be allowed, even if the end result is the export of most of the profits, which might constitute a large proportion of the investible surplus in the colony; that the colony will not be allowed to significantly tax these profits; neither will the colony be allowed to borrow internationally, even if the bulk of its public savings are invested abroad; and that there will be minimal expenditure on education and other vital facilities, however necessary for capitalist development of the local people; and that the expatriate dominated political and economic system will discourage the fostering of local capitalists in competition with expatriate capitals; then Knapman’s major conclusion logically follows: Fiji’s colonial history was the most preferred in the circumstances. One only needs to be clear about ”whose- preferences were satisfied by the people in power.

Overall, while the individual chapters do sit together uneasily if assessed purely in terms of its stated objective of analyzing general capitalist evolution in Fiji, Knapman’s monograph does contain much interesting, well documented new historical material.

Knapman’s writing style, while polemical, is witty, sharp, easy-flowing and generally attractive. As a “Warrenite” interpretation of Fiji’s colonial history, the book is worth reading for any student of multi-ethnic ex-colonies dominated by foreign capital.


Lessons for future studies: the emergence of national neo-colonialism


While Knapman’s study ends in 1939, it serves as an important reminder for studies of post-colonial Fiji, of the weaknesses inherent in analyzing Fiji’s economic history purely in terms of capitalist development or, as some of us have tended to do, in focusing inordinately on domination by foreign enterprises and racism by whites against non-whites, even if these latter factors may have been important during the colonial era and are still important now.

It should be remembered that implicit in these earlier analyses, was the assumption that the fostering of national capitalists also would lead to national economic growth and diversification (industrialization) of the economy, with increased standards of living for the majority of the inhabitants. However, the post-colonial history of Fiji, especially after the coups, indicates that the success of Indo-Fijian or indigenous Fijian businessmen, the replacement of foreign ownership by local ownership, and the elimination of an imperial/colonial government, cannot be a necessary or even sufficient condition for the development of the bulk of Fiji’s inhabitants.

Thus even though a national Government and local shareholders and management have replaced foreign ownership and management of the monopsony sugar mills, recent changes in policy for the vital sugar industry are clearly bringing back “colonial” processes, relations of production, and techniques to reduce farmers’ share of sugar proceeds and sugar workers’ wages, as was feared a decade ago (Narsey:1979). Industry inquiries and tribunals ignore the views of large sections of farmers and deliver judgments which, both on economic and natural justice grounds, are loaded against the farmers and blatantly in favor of the millers; rival unions are fostered now on ethnicist lines by the State, in order to reduce the strength of farmers; economic protest is branded as political agitation; while the legal system is used once more to effectively prevent the implementation of workers’ legitimate rights to industrial action.

While local capitalists, a large proportion of whom are Indo-Fijian, have made significant inroads into the hitherto expatriate dominated economy, this has not necessarily been to the advantage of the national economy or the bulk of the people. While some of the elimination of expatriate capitals has no doubt been due to greater efficiency and productivity of the local businessmen, much has also been due to the more intense and ruthless exploitation of working people or state protection at public cost, while the ordinary people are facing greater burdens of taxation and reduced expenditure on education and health, as in colonial times.

Workers have therefore been reduced to subsistence wages, through the state-supported breaking of strikes and unions, and legislated wage freezes. It could be argued that Fiji’s working people may have been better served by employment with foreign firms which were more likely to accommodate unions and collective bargaining, because of the lever of accepted industrial practice in their home countries.

Most of the other national manufacturing enterprises, despite the intense propaganda about deregulation of Fiji’s economy, continue to survive inefficiently, only because of extremely high effective protection paid for by the consumers. Taxes are being shifted from more progressive direct taxes to regressive indirect taxes. Expenditure on education, health and social welfare face severe restraints, especially for Indo-Fijians who are racially marginalized by the State; while expenditure for enhancing profitability of enterprises, and unproductive or potentially destructive military uses, are escalated.

It is also becoming increasingly weak to argue that the short-term exploitation of workers is necessary for the creation of profits which will be used for long-term investment, growth and a larger cake to be shared by all in the future. It is quite obvious that following the coups in 1987, most businessmen are (very rationally) retaining or sending the bulk of their profits abroad: but private rationality is not synonymous with social welfare.

While the fostering of indigenous Fijian capitalists is not likely in the medium term to lead to an export of capital (how long will it take for indigenous Fijian enterprises to also be trans-nationals?), the majority of indigenous Fijians, like the majority of Indo-Fijians cannot become businessmen.

As it is no comfort to Indo-Fijian garment workers to be exploited by rapacious Indo-Fijian employers, increasingly it will also be of no comfort to Fijian workers that their employer paying exploitative wages is also Fijian: in competitive capitalist capitalist markets, there is no room for distributive largesse to one’s race.

Colonialism has again become topical in Fiji’s politics, for a variety of interest groups with frequently contradictory objectives and rhetoric. Supporters of the coups and the existing government have castigated the imperial and colonial governments for allegedly not protecting the indigenous Fijian interest and indeed collaborating in the marginalization of Fijians.

On the other hand, old colonial functionaries and self-appointed advisers and protectors of indigenous Fijians, eulogize on the glorious contributions made by the same imperial and colonial governments to the development of Fiji and the Fijian people. Yet others see the current economic, political and social problems not only having deep roots in the colonial past, but also see old colonial policies of exploitation being resuscitated and revived, making more urgent a thorough understanding of our colonial past. Knapman’s study, both through its detailed evidence and analysis, are useful contributions to an ongoing debate.





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