Fiji is a small, open and relatively more developed economy of the Pacific with a GDP of just over USD 3 billion. It supports around 850,000 people of whom 57% are indigenous Fijians, 38% Indo-Fijians and the rest are Europeans, Chinese and other Pacific Islanders, (Census 2007). Adjusted for natural increase and net-migration, the average population growth rate is 1.5%. Even though natural disasters are less frequent or damaging in Fiji, internal political problems in the last five years have undermined any serious pace of progress of this service-sector driven economy. The per capita GNI estimated at USD 3,685 in 2010 is neither regionally high nor fast-growing. The most recent growth forecast, however, points to a small increase in real GDP which is expected to have resulted from a few high growth sectors (tourism, building and construction, communications and retail trade), Reserve Bank of Fiji (2012). About two-thirds of Fiji’s GDP is based on services related activities, but it has as relatively developed industrial sector. Fiji’s HDI ranking is 100 with an HDI value of 0.688 in 2011 up from 0.678 in 2005.
Baseline Poverty Analysis
About 50% of Fiji’s population resided in the rural areas in 2010 despite the notable rural-urban drift. Due to the decline noted in both productivity and agriculture value addition, real rural sector income (per capita) has declined by 5% annually since 2007, World Bank (2012). Data also show that the proportion of women in agricultural employment remained low but with a growth in youth population, the incidence of poverty seems to have increased. Youths account for about a quarter of Fiji’s population and when combined with the children make about 45% of the total.
Poverty at national level has declined from 40% in 2002-03 to 35% 2008-09 but rural poverty gap still persists, MDG report (2012). Basic poverty remains high as the World Bank (2012) data indicates that some 14.8% of rural poor earn incomes below the national basic needs poverty line. In addition, headcount rural poverty was 43% in 2008-09. With low growth forecast for 2013-15 and declining agricultural productivity, rural poverty and unemployment is expected to persist in the short-to-medium term. There is a high level of youth unemployment in Fiji but the recently instituted employment service scheme under the Ministry of Labour provides skills-based training to empower and integrate youths into formal and/or self-employment.
The UNFPA (2012) shows that women in parliament declined from 11% in 2000 to 9% in 2005. In addition, only 28% of females are formally employed although the Government continue to prioritise gender equality in employment, education and social services.
Agriculture and Rural Development
Agriculture is strategically important and includes more than 75% of all activities, largely dominated by Indo-Fijian rural based sugarcane farmers. A range of marine and forestry products, together with root crops, fruits, vegetables and livestock are exported from Fiji as well. The political problems led to a massive exodus of skilled people since 1987 and created uncertainties over land rights which have undermined the agricultural contribution to GDP from as high as 25% in the pre-1987 period to around 12% in 2010. The IMF (2010) finds that 40% of all arable land is currently underutilised (adding to about 65% of forest land) due to problems in administration, pricing and enforcement of land leases. The permanent crop land area remained unchanged since 2007 and the ADB (2012) shows that cereal and food production has declined by 13% and 4%, respectively per annum in 2007-10. Livestock production picked-up by about 5% in 2010 but is not different from its 2007-08 levels. More recently, fisheries and aquaculture is beginning to grow on a commercial scale. The Ministry of Agriculture targets a 30% increase agricultural production by 2015 in order to reduce Fiji’s import dependence which was close to 50% of GDP in 2010. For the rural and outer islands, Government funding has increased by 50% in 2011 and an additional $0.35m has been allocated to their food security programs. However, the Government’s budget for agriculture continues to remain low.
Investing in the Rural Poor
Fiji: Investing in the Rural Poor, IFAD's Rural sector performance assessment (RSP). This publication may be found here.
Rural Development Indicators
Composite data about Fiji may be found here.