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Mark Wallace
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I'm an American (EEUU) by birth, but certainly a mutt by ethnicity. I prefer the Southern Hemisphere nowadays, and I try to spend time on at least 3 continents per year, in more than a few different countries. While there I explore intriguing social, investment, business and lifestyle... More
My company:
Capex Ltd.
My blog:
Capitalist Exploits
My book:
Mongolia Investment Report
  • Fiji - Our Favourite Place In This World 0 comments
    Sep 29, 2012 12:24 AM

    After my post, How to Scare Away the Herd, I could just hear the comments, "Why on earth would Mark and Chris recommend a place under military rule, even if it is "military rule light", in the middle of nowhere, rife with ethnic tension, consisting of a bunch of former cannibals fishing all day and drinking Kava all night?"

    The answer is contained in the question my friends...

    Outside of Suva, and perhaps one or two other "towns," Fijians function completely independently of the government. They are a largely self-sustaining population, relying on their own abilities and ingenuity to get things done. They are quite possibly the most resilient, and also the friendliest people on earth. many still live without electricity and Western "comforts", yet violent crime is rare in Fiji.

    Coups - who cares! Case in point... A friend of mine was diving off the Yasawa islands about 4 weeks after the 2006 coup. He was chatting to the islanders about what had happened, and they were totally unaware that there had been any change in the government, and frankly they could care less.

    Prior to Commodore Bainimarama taking power, economically Fiji was already under pressure from a failing sugar industry, which had functioned almost entirely due to subsidies from the EU and Australia. A scaling back of these subsidies led to the sugar industry contracting and widespread losses for sugar-related businesses.

    Foreign aid, sugar and tourism were, and still are, the main driving forces behind this tiny economy. Since the military dictatorship took power, foreign aid has collapsed and the remaining subsidies have been severely scaled back, which I view as positive for the Fijian economy. It means that the providers of goods and services have to become more competitive, more resourceful and manage their businesses better.

    There are also some overlooked opportunities where these "failed" industries might be resurrected in a new form...yep, we have ideas!

    True or false - Foreign aid is easily the most destructive force in third-world countries..?

    True!! Me thinks anyway... It allows tyrants to remain in power and ensures wasteful, destructive spending of "free" money, while actively diminishing incentives for the populace to compete in the industries or areas that receive most of the aid.

    Fiji, for my money, is better off having to rebuild itself without the crutch of foreign aid and subsidies. It might be a tougher go for some, but in the long run it will build a much stronger foundation for the country.

    When comparing Fiji with the majority of the Western world, consider the following:

    • Globally we're still in the early stages of a financial collapse and reshuffling.
    • Environmental degradation has eroded the quality of food and water sources in most places, especially the northern hemisphere.
    • Most people in the West wouldn't last a week if their food and energy supplies were cut off. Fijians don't have that problem.
    • Health care is no longer affordable and is of a questionable quality.
    • Education is sub-standard and increasingly controlled by the State. Home school your kids here if you want.
    • Social unrest is growing, and most are ill-prepared to cope with violence and disruption.
    • Large governments are showing an increasing propensity to wage war at the drop of a hat, even on their own citizens!

    Given the above I feel inclined to look for set-ups where these issues are not as prevalent. This is why guys like Doug Casey and Simon Black have set up communities of their own in South America.

    In kind, Fiji, for the right temperament, could very easily serve as an excellent escape hatch. It doesn't have Chile's infrastructure, but its remoteness will insulate it from almost anything that befalls the West. And if you think Fiji is messed up politically, Argentina makes it look like Switzerland! Plus, and this is a big one for some of us, English is spoken in Fiji.

    Perception versus Reality

    As mentioned earlier, Fiji's military government isn't as bad as the mainstream media (NYSE:MSM) would have you believe, at least not as far as your average Fijian is concerned. Remember, MSM stands for "massively stupid melodrama".

    Upon arriving at the International airport in Nadi (prounounced Nandi), I was immediately taken aback by the LACK of military or other security personnel. Maybe it was Fiji's version of the TSA, four 200-pound guys in skirts playing the Ukulele and serenading us at 7 a.m. In the morning!

    (click to enlarge)Fijis TSA
    Fiji's Version of the TSA!

    It's the same thing on the streets. You see police and military, but their presence is nothing when compared to Australia, North America and South America. There are no machine gun-armed, jack-booted thugs standing in every doorway, not even at the banks.

    One of my first nights there, as I was on my way to a new club in Suva to meet two Aussie friends, my cab driver asked me what I thought of Fiji..? I've oft-said that if you want to get a real taste of a place talk to the cabbies.

    I told him I thought it was fantastic. "Really?" He asked me if I had seen my country's travel warnings (assuming I was from Australia or New Zealand). I said no, I had not. "Oh, so you didn't know to expect guys running around the streets with machetes and sticks chasing tourists eh?" "No, can't say that I did..."

    This is typical of the fear mongering and control that governments try to instill in their populations. There were no machete-toting gangs, no Molotov cocktails, no armed military check points with guys frisking and detaining me (unlike the TSA or VIPR thugs in the States). I just saw a lot of happy people with smiles, going about their business.

    And to mention that club I was on my way to... It was recently opened by a 23-year old Fijian national, who also owns a successful restaurant in town. He was one of the sharpest, most congenial young guys I've ever met. In fact he bought us drinks all night long. Like I said, Fijians are just nice!

    That's the good thing about Fiji's military government; it is inefficient, mostly bankrupt and small enough that the majority of the population is left to their own devices - and they're doing just fine.

    Outside of Suva, and perhaps Nadi, you're hard pressed to find anyone that has a direct link to the bureaucracy or reach of the government. Fully 70% of the country's labour force is involved in agriculture. I would guess that the same percentage of people, or possibly more, are self-sufficient in food and water. Furthermore, most of them don't really know who is in charge, nor do they care.

    (click to enlarge)Happy Fijian Boys
    Do These Kids Look Miserable?

    The basic absence of the government is arguably Fiji's greatest virtue! The government here isn't passing laws restricting its citizens from watering their yard, drinking the milk from their cows, selling their vegetables or home schooling their children. Nor is it chasing down its citizens to fleece them for more tax dollars to stay in power.

    In fact, as you'll see in my next post, Fiji is actually aggressively lowering taxes and offering incentives to businesses, both domestic and international to operate in the country.

    So, if all this sounds fascinating, and it should; mark your calendar for November 8th - 14th and come join us in Savusavu, Fiji on the beautiful island of Vanua Levu to experience real Fiji for yourself.

    We've put together a nice little website to give you the full details HERE.

    - Mark

    "Courage is poorly housed that dwells in numbers; the lion never counts the herd that are about him, nor weighs how many flocks he has to scatter." - Aaron Hill

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