The Republic of Fiji, a small but integral country in the Oceanic region of the South Pacific with a large population of Indian-origin citizens, as well as a vast diaspora throughout the U.S. and beyond, is open for business.
Praneet Singh, the country’s trade commissioner of the Burlingame, California-based Fiji Trade Commission North America, emphasized in an interview with India-West that Fiji has contained COVID-19 and is open for trade and investment opportunities.
Fiji is considered by many the hub of the South Pacific, considering its proximity to larger markets such as Australia and New Zealand, as well as its position on major shipping routes.
“Other than being known as the country ‘Where Happiness Finds You!” we have a young, vibrant, educated and English-speaking population,” Singh, who took over the helm as trade commissioner in October 2019, told India-West.
“Our population is innovative and increasingly digitally savvy with a hunger to drive digital disruption not only in Fiji but across the wider Pacific,” he added.
Businesses in Fiji enjoy reliable, fast and affordable internet connection through the Southern Cross cable that connects Fiji to the West Coast of the United States.
Relative to the rest of the world, Fiji offers significant cost savings to relocate operations. This is manifest through low utility costs, low cost of land use, and low costs of production, Singh explained.
“Fiji also offers some of the best tax concessions in the world,” the trade commissioner boasted. “This takes the form of low personal and corporate tax rates, deductibility allowance on various capital items, tax holidays, and unparalleled opportunities for investment in Fiji’s tax-free zones.”
Being an archipelago of the Paradisical Tropical islands, Fiji is an attractive and affordable destination to own a “slice of paradise,” effectively enjoying an envious work-life balance, Singh, a graduate from the University of Auckland with dual bachelor degrees in commerce (both accounting and finance) and law, told India-West.
Singh added that he is seeing a lot more interest from North Americans wanting to work and own a holiday home in Fiji as businesses increasingly adapt to remote working.
Despite COVID-19 putting a damper on travel and leisure globally, Singh is confident that his country will remain a popular destination for vacationers.
“Fiji is, and Fiji will always remain, a premium holiday destination for travelers seeking an exotic tropical getaway to our enchanting region of the world,” Singh stressed.
To potential hotel and resort investors, Singh noted that Fiji is second to none with its “heartfelt authentic hospitality offerings which incapsulate the ‘Bula Spirit’ of our islands.”
“The Fijian government and tourism sector is working hard to pre-position itself for when international borders reopen,” he added, leading to opportunities for “savvy investors to capitalize on tourism-centric assets on favorable terms due to prevailing market conditions.”
Of course, all investments carry an element of risk. Singh advised all potential investors to consult their professional advisers to ensure they completely understand all facets of prospective financial commitments.
Singh noted that, due to international border closures, the country’s tourism sector – which historically contributed upwards of 40 percent toward the GDP – took a major hit.
“Due to the current global economic fallout from the pandemic from which Fiji is not immune, increasing numbers of high value capital assets and projects are being snapped up on favorable terms by savvy overseas investors,” he said. “This showcases the level of investor confidence now in the ability of Fiji’s tourism sector to rebound post-pandemic. As such, if you have access to capital, now is a great time to invest in Fiji,” Singh told India-West.
As a COVID-19 contained country, Fiji is an attractive get-away destination for those who can get there by boat, the trade commissioner added.
To attract safe tourism, the government of Fiji has introduced “Blue Lanes” for boats to dock in Fiji’s pristine island waters.
Sailors who can provide evidence of 14 days’ isolation at sea and test negative for COVID-19 upon arrival are able to enter Fiji for their tropical getaway, Singh noted.
“Our government is also working hard on a ‘Bula Bubble’ which, if accepted by our partner governments, will allow tourists to holiday at designated quarantine resort facilities without a risk of infecting our population at large,” Singh said.
“The campaign will offer attractive Fijian holiday packages which include a $400 stipend for every visitor purchasing a holiday package through the campaign for the first 150,000 visitors,” he noted.
In addition to opportunities in hotels and resorts, Singh said that the country – which has a unique trade relation with U.S. because of its positive trade balance – is home to many other sources of investment.
For example, the country has the Fiji water brand, which “provides a positive brand image of taking a sip of paradise,” Singh said.
Additionally, Fiji has a large agricultural sector with unique niche products, as well as the traditional drink of Kava, which has been used for centuries by indigenous people as a social drink as well as a form of currency.
“We’re seeing interest in ginger and turmeric as well by North American consumers and distributors,” Singh added. Also, because of Fiji’s nutrient rich volcanic soil, “we’re seeing more interest in organic farming for a more health-conscious North American market.”
The Fiji Trade Commission North America represents the government of the Republic of Fiji as an overseas mission located in California. Singh and the Commission report to the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism, and Transport.
Recently, the Commission relocated from Southern California to its current location in the San Francisco Bay Area. (A grand opening for the new location has been postponed due to the pandemic.)
“Our presence around the Bay area positions us closer to our large diaspora population (many of whom are of Indian descent) and provides proximity to Silicon Valley and a range of investors this region has to offer,” the commissioner, who also completed postgraduate study in international taxation at Auckland, said.
“In brief, my office is responsible for facilitating friendly bilateral relations with our U.S. counterparts coupled with facilitating trade and investment between our countries,” he said.
The Fiji Trade Commission North America looks after the entire North American region and fields inquiries from businesses and investors across the U.S. and Canada.
Prior to his appointment as trade commissioner, Singh was a principal consultant of an established chartered accounting and management consultancy practice, as well as serving for many years in corporate and commercial banking, most recently as senior adviser/accountant to the CFO of New Zealand’s largest registered bank.
In addition to Singh, the commission has a team of honorary consuls who represent the country across the Americas.
The honorary consuls are Indian Americans Vinod Bhindi in Los Angeles and Jay Singh in San Francisco; Dr. Karen Lawson in Philadelphia, Bobby Naicker in Canada, and Elizue Lima in Brazil.
The consuls are appointed by the government of the Republic of Fiji and accepted by the U.S. State Department. The honorary consul officers recognized by the U.S. government are American citizens who perform consular services on a part-time and often voluntary basis.
“Our honorary consuls are here to help Fijians with consular inquiries,” Singh said. “Our honorary consuls also help promote Fiji in an increasingly global world.”
Meanwhile, as a country, Fiji is celebrating its half centennial of independence from British rule.
Oct. 10 mark the 50th anniversary of gaining independence from the U.K., dating back to Oct. 10, 1970.
“Blessedly, Fiji has been COVID-19 contained since mid-April 2020. This means that there have been no reported cases of community transmission of the pandemic amongst our population at large since then,” Singh told India-West proudly.
“In Fiji, our public will celebrate this day in grand fashion, usually involving decorated bands of our disciplined forces, parading, and of course the best part: the communal feasts families and friends will be dining on together to commemorate this day of national pride,” he added.
“Unfortunately, unlike Fiji, due to the risks posed to the public by the pandemic, our North American-based missions will have to postpone public celebrations to a later date,” the commissioner noted.
Despite the COVID-19 concerns here, Singh again stressed that his home country of Fiji is open for investment and trade.
“Our latest opportunity report showcases potential for generous returns on investment when partnering with Fiji,” he said. “Please reach out to me to discover how my office can help grow your business and investment portfolio.”
More information about the commission can be found at www.FijiTradeCommission.com.