Bula Vinaka and good evening.
I am honoured and delighted to stand here on behalf of the Board, management and the FDB team, to extend a very warm welcome to our chief guest, His Excellency, Major General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote, the President of the Republic of Fiji. And the First Lady.
Your Excellency, thank you for accepting our invitation.
Our distinguished guests, sponsors, partners, judges and our Small and Medium Entrepreneurs- welcome to the 2017 FDB’s National Small and Medium Awards.
I extend the Bank’s sincere appreciation to his Excellency the President of the Republic of Fiji, to the Fijian Government, and to you all for supporting our initiatives towards growing our SME sector for our future generations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Fiji Development Bank [FDB], since its establishment 50 years ago, has provided financing to the Small and Medium Enterprises sector to the value of over $2.4 billion.
FDB has assisted thousands of SMEs across the country, including women and youths.
The first SME that FDB financed in its first year of establishment in 1967 was the only SME assisted in Fiji that year.
In 2005, FDB financed its most number of SMEs and the highest in value in any one year to date – to the value of $2.5 million.
It was the year after the Bank had launched a platform of competitive recognition and its first annual Small Business Awards, to encourage growth of Small and Micro Enterprises in Fiji.
Ladies and gentlemen, FDB had taken its first step outside of direct financing towards assisting in the growth of the SME sector.
Ten years later, the awards programme was expanded to include medium-sized enterprises of turnover up to $500,000 in gross sales per annum.
And, today, as the Bank continues to celebrate its Golden Jubilee, the awards have been taken to even greater heights with a revamp to FDB’s National SME Awards.
The Bank’s theme for our Golden Jubilee year is Development for Fijians Across Generations!
Aligned to that, there couldn’t have been a better theme for this year’s National SME awards than Promoting SME growth for Future Generations.
You may ask, why focus on future generations.
Ladies and gentlemen, such is our mandate.
With the support of the Government, FDB provides financing for the development of the Fijian economy which positively contribute towards the enhancement of the quality of life for all Fijians, now and in the future.
We are firm in our commitment of focusing on inclusive growth for all; as well as addressing challenges to environmentally sustainable development; and to forge public private partnerships that promote the growth of SMEs, the development of the rural-agro sectors and the growth of the industrial and commerce sectors.
Our solution-based strategic direction has resulted in this shift in the principal objective of the SME Awards, gearing the platform towards promoting and strengthening SME growth that is inclusive for this generation and one that embraces sustainability more than ever before for future generations.
Hence, the Awards have been restructured to progressively contribute towards global initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change Framework, in Fiji.
Because if we do not embrace sustainability, our generation will hinder sustainable development for our future generations.
Ladies and gentlemen, each Award category has been revamped to recognize SMEs that are developing and exceling in their sectors, adding value to the economy and being responsive to the impacts of climate change and to progress global development initiatives.
Three new important awards have been introduced.
The first in Fiji is an award that recognizes SMEs that are responsive to the impacts of Climate Change.
Second new award is the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award and the third new award is the Most Resilient SME Post-TC Winston. These Awards have been introduced to reflect on the Bank’s objective of mainstreaming gender equality; and being responsive to the needs of our customers, especially in building resilience in response to natural disasters.
Today, we will be awarding SMEs that are champions in their communities through the creation of decent work, promoting financial inclusion and contributing to the national and global development agenda. And, in doing so they have demonstrated innovative capacity in improving their business performance.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Awards would not have been possible without the support from each of our sponsors and partners – our Development Ambassadors.
We express our gratitude to our 17 award sponsors and partners – we greatly appreciate your commitment to our shared goals and value your contribution.
And finally I wish all the SME entrepreneurs vying for the awards this evening my very best wishes.
Thank you. Vinaka Vakalevu and Dhanyavad.