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Preface to Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 (by Professor Wadan Narsey)

03/11/2017

Preface to Fiji Developing, Volumes 1 to 4

These four volumes comprising Fiji Developing bring together my thirty years of community education writings in popular media, mostly newspapers (Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Daily Post), but also business magazines (Island Business) and other international outlets (such as Pacific Scoop in Auckland). They cover not just economic, but also social and political issues, all vital to understand the complex process we call “development”. The title FIJI DEVELOPING conveys the sense that Fiji has been, is, and always will be, a “work in progress” throwing up new and sometimes old challenges for every generation.

            Economics policy makers often face the trade off between the objectives of economic growth and the fair distribution of the benefits. Volume 1 (Growing the Economy) addresses not just possible strategies for growing the economy (good and bad) but emphasizes the need for involving small and medium enterprises (SMEs) so as to simultaneously address growth and distribution objectives.

Failure to address fair distribution in many economies leads to popular protest, as illustrated in the recent BREXIT and “Donald Trump” phenomena. Volume 2 (A Fair Go for All) focuses on the vulnerable groups in our economy and society: workers, women,  children, students, the sick, savers, the pensioners and the future generations from whom we have “borrowed the environment”.  These volumes are also records of one person’s personal attempt “to bear witness” and to speak for the weak and the vulnerable.

Volume 3 imagines a A Decent and Inclusive Society without our vices such as racism, violence against women and children, but also our good people.  Volume 4 gives a broad sweep of my perspectives on our Political Meanderings since the 1987 coup, forever repeating the mistakes of the 1987 coup.

Some articles and sections do not fit neatly into their allocated volumes, given that “development” is holistic – economic, social and political. Gender, an essential part of my USP microeconomics courses thirty years ago, long before the World Bank thought to give it any prominence, has always been a cross-cutting issue. There is some duplication of subject matter in some articles as I have not had the time to edit as I would have liked and to keep the coherence of some articles.

Resource for students, teachers, unionists, journalists, community leaders, donors

These articles were written in simple language for the ordinary public, usually in response to particular development problems at the time hence may be seen as “applied economics” or “applied social science” for students, usefully complementing their textbooks which focus on theory.

The dates of original publication indicate how public issues changed over time.  Reference to any particular reading should include the date of original publication and the date of publication of this volume, for example Narsey (FT 1985, 2017).

Each volume has a glossary of specialist terms, a glossary of common Fiji expressions, and a list of acronyms and abbreviations popularly used in Fiji. Each reading has “key words” which link to a comprehensive index. Each reading has focused questions for students and teachers to widen the scope of the reading.

The many recommendations can be used as a rough “check list of progress” by Fiji and Fiji governments. It is ironic given my opposition to illegal military governments that some recommendations I made decades ago (e.g. government subsidies of bus fares and preschools, or the “Look North” policies on poverty alleviation) have been attempted by the post-2006 coup Bainimarama governments.

Universities’ lack of incentives for community education

Many enlightened international universities now consider community education contributions of academics to be treated for reward equally with academic articles. USP has yet to join that enlightened group, even though serving its communities is explicitly stated in USP’s Mission and Vision statements, while the existence of a   School of Journalism at USP is evidence that “journalism” is an academic discipline.

Most Fiji academics do not understand that writing for the public media in simple language is far more difficult than writing an academic paper, improves their academic writing and is deeply valued by the public. It was a privilege to be given an award from the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement as a “defender of women’s rights” and the honorary title of  “People’s Professor”.

With Palgrave Macmillan’s 2016 publication of a book based on my DPhil thesis British Imperialism and the Making of Colonial Currency Systems, I finally laid to rest an old burden of allegedly not publishing a “scholarly” book of interest to international academics. It was bitter irony that USP management acknowledged this international publication after I had been pushed out. I am deeply indebted to Professor Larry Neal (Emeritus Professor of Economics at Illinois University) for his facilitation of the publication in numerous ways.

Newspapers as “watchdogs”

Every Fiji government since independence in 1970 has accused the newspapers of having biases against them. The Fiji Times, as the longest running newspaper in Fiji (150th anniversary this year), has been particularly vulnerable to several governments.

My own articles include many critiques of public policies of virtually every government, as well as constructive recommendations for better development policy, most published in The Fiji Times.  These four volumes of my writings alone, are therefore also testament to the “watchdog” role of The Fiji Times, without bias against any government in particular. The content of the articles also illustrate the constructive “developmental” role of the Fiji Times which has also given voice to many other writers, many with opposing views.

These volumes contain many Letters to the Editor on matters of public policy written between 2012 and 2014, censored by the daily newspapers, either because of intimidation and fear of persecution and prosecution (The Fiji Times), or because of their pro-government bias (Fiji Sun). The content and dates of these censored letters and articles also reflect the nature and extent of media censorship in the period 2012 up to the September 2014 elections, and the limited relaxation thereafter.

Acknowledgements

I acknowledge the many Marist Brothers’ High School teachers who influenced me more than fifty years ago. They included (the late) Dr Ahmed Ali, Francis Hong Tiy, Yadhu Nand Singh, Lionel Low, Geoffrey Ryan, and the many Marist Brothers like Brother Anthony.  I am pleased that Brother Fergus Garett today continues this great tradition (my review of his book on the Marist Brothers in Fiji is in Volume 3).  At USP in the seventies, eighties and nineties, I also enjoyed the comradeship of many teaching colleagues: the late Dr. Ahmed Ali,  Dr. Yadhu Nand Singh, the late Dr. Uday Raj, Professor Rajesh Chandra, Professor Vijay Naidu, Professor Biman Prasad, Dr Mahendra Reddy, Dr Ganesh Chand, the late Dr. Ropate Qalo, the late Simione Durutalo, and “new kid on the block” Dr. Neelesh Gounder who is carrying on the great community education media writings that these volumes represent. I apologize for the many who I have omitted to mention, including the many musical friends who have helped me to retain my sanity in times of stress.

Early in my career at USP as a lecturer of mathematics, I was fortuitously involved with a  number of friends in producing Fiji A Developing Australian Colony which helped to push me into the study and career in economics:  the late Amelia Rokotuivuna (Director of YWCA), John Samy, Jone Dakuvula, Rev. Akuila Yabaki, Claire Slatter, and Australians Ian Howie and Peter Annear. Other supportive friends over the years have been the late Nand Kisor Chetty and  Seona Smiles, Vanessa Griffen, Arlene Griffen, and newer kids on the block like Dr Neelesh Gounder who is carrying on the great community education tradition that these volumes represent. Sadly, some of our paths in Fiji diverged over the the 2006 coup.

I thank the print media organizations especially The Fiji Times, for providing an outlet for my community education articles. Especially supportive have been a long stream of publishers, editors and sub-editors beginning with Vimal Madhavan (in the 1980s), Russel Hunter, Netani Rika, Fred Wesley, and Hank Arts. Many have courageously faced harsh legal sanctions and physical intimidation for matters which would not be crimes in countries like Australia or New Zealand.

During periods of censorship in Fiji, international blogsites such as Pacific Scoop (Professor David Robie), Islands Business (Godfrey Scoullar and Samisoni Pareti), Intelligentsiya, Pensioners, Fijileaks (Dr. Victor Lal) and many other pro-democracy blogsites often reprinted my political commentaries banned in Fiji.

My deepest debt will always be to my parents, Maniben Narsey and the late Narseybhai Dullabh, working class Gujarati dhobi (laundry folk) from Toorak in Suva, whose seven children (Jagmohan, Wadan, Padma, Champa, Mangi, Saras and Pankej) are now scattered globally, and a credit to their humble parents.

I thank my wife Sin Joan Yee (former USP Librarian and currently Co-Director of Confucius Institute at USP) and  my children (Siddhartha Weih-jen, Sugata Weih-mun and Amitaabh Weih-len) for being supportive and critical readers over the years.

Professor Wadan Narsey
Former Professor of Economics (USP)
Adjunct Professor James Cook University (Australia)
Adjunct Professor Swinburne University
Melbourne
November 2017

Email               wadan.narsey@gmail.com

Website:            https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/

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