Fiji slashes currency by 20pc, tries to boost tourism

Fiji's central bank has slashed the value of its currency by 20 per cent as political turmoil sends the country's economy tumbling.

The devaluation was announced today with immediate effect by Reserve Bank Governor Sada Reddy, just hours after he was appointed to the post following the removal of the previous governor by the military regime.

Fiji's political crisis deepened last week when armed forces chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized greater control of the troubled nation after a court ruling that declared his coup-installed government illegal.

The bank said in a statement that the currency devaluation would boost tourism and exports in Fiji - two sectors that have plunged since Bainimarama overturned the elected government in 2006.

Earlier today Cdre Bainimarama said he was not going to be forced into holding elections and reform was essential before the country could return to democracy.

Cdre Bainimarama cited a survey which he said had shown 64 per cent of Fijians wanted a new electoral system, and he was not going to return to the old, race-based formula.

He suggested the Appeal Court judges who ruled against the legality of his interim government had made up their minds before hearing the case, and did not take the need for reform into account.

"All they wanted was to force us into elections," he said on Radio New Zealand.

"It was interesting to all of us that they came up with a 52-page judgment in 24 hours...most people thought they made the decision before they came to Fiji."

Cdre Bainimarama said he had imposed emergency restrictions so the reforms could be implemented.

"We want to do these changes, these reforms, the last thing we want is opposition to these reforms throughout," he said.

"We will now decide what is going to be done, we will put these reforms in place so we have a better Fiji."

Cdre Bainimarama, again citing the survey of opinion, said the future would be decided by Fijians and had nothing to do with New Zealand or Australia.

He appeared unconcerned about the prospect of Fiji being suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Island Forum.

"We want to be part of them, but if they decide to remove us, what can we do?"

Asked whether he would agree to a Radio New Zealand reporter going to Fiji, Cdre Bainimarama said he would answer any questions that needed answers.

- NZPA

- NZ Herald

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