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Fiji, Economy

Fijiís economy is dependent on the sugar industry and tourism. Two political coups in 1987 adversely affected tourism and caused a loss of skilled and educated workers when many Indians left the country. There was a general recovery by the early 1990s, but in 1993 Cyclone Kina caused an estimated $84 million in damage to agriculture and infrastructure.

In 2000 Fijiís labor force stood at 329,063; most people were employed in salaried or wage positions. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing employ 2 percent of Fijiís workers and in 2000 contributed 18 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Sugarcane is the principal cash crop, while paddy rice is the chief subsistence crop. Vegetables, fruit, beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products are produced for the local market. Forestry is a growing industry and timber production nearly doubled during the early 1990s. Fishing is done mainly at a subsistence level, but commercial fishing is increasing. The country also receives income from the sale of licenses to foreign vessels to fish in Fijiís exclusive economic zone.

Industry, including mining, manufacturing, and construction, employs 34 percent of Fijiís wage earners and, in 2000, contributed 29 percent of GDP. The government instituted tax-free incentives in 1988 that created a flourishing garment industry. Ready-made garments are now the chief manufactured items. Gold and silver are the principal minerals mined.

A hydroelectric plant on Viti Levu in 1999 met 82 percent of Fijiís energy needs, with imported mineral fuels providing the remainder. About 96 percent of Fijiís electricity is consumed by the urban areas and tourist facilities on Viti Levu.

In 2000, 294,000 tourists visited Fiji, attracted to the scenery and fishing, snorkeling, and diving opportunities. They spent $171 million, making tourism a major source of foreign exchange.

The government of Fiji consistently runs a budget deficit. In 1997, revenues were $520 million with expenditures of $628 million. The balance of trade was also negative; exports were $447 million while imports were $737 million. Fijiís principal trading partners are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Sugar accounts for about one-third of Fijiís exports. Clothing, fish, gold, and lumber are also important. The primary imports are machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum products, and food.

The national currency is the Fiji dollar, which is equal to 100 cents (2.13 Fijian dollars equal U.S.$1; 2000 average). Many Fijian villagers participate little in the cash economy, living a subsistence lifestyle that requires few purchased goods. Most Indian villagers, however, live on leased land and must have some income to pay rent.

Fijiís road system is fairly well developed, particularly the highway on Viti Levu that links Suva with Nausori and Nadi. Nadi International Airport is an important hub for air travel over the Pacific Ocean, with many flights between North America and Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific Island countries stopping first in Fiji. An airport at Nausori, located near Suva, is the principal hub for domestic air travel. Suva is the largest port, but Lautoka and Levuka are also important. More than a dozen international shipping lines serve Fiji. Private companies operate automobile ferries between the major islands.

Most of the inhabited islands are linked by telephone or radio telephones. The government operates a radio and a television station, and one radio station is privately owned. In 1996 there was 1 daily newspaper.


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