Friday, September 4, 2009

Fiji: Bottled Water and the Government

This week, Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations. The country's military junta has refused to hold elections, and it recently abolished the country's judiciary after the court declared that the military junta was unconstitutional. Currently, Fiji is governed by Marshall law.

In the Fijian town Rakiraki, residents cannot drink from their local water supply: the water is not potable. Also in Rakiraki, Fiji bottled water is sold at prices comparable to those in the United States.

The US-owned Fiji bottled water company (known as Brand Fiji by the Fijian government) began operations in 1995, after an enterprising real estate and gold-mining mogul, David Gilmour, took out a 99-year lease from the Fijian government on a recently discovered aquifer. The aquifer was discovered by the Fijian government and international aid groups while exploring for clean sources of drinking water. The Brand Fiji plant is located thirty minutes from Rakiraki.

In addition to the 99-year lease, Brand Fiji receives other business advantages from the Fijian government. Specifically, Brand Fiji works with Fijian embassies in various countries to market their bottled water. The government sees the marketing of the bottled water as a means for marketing the country to tourists as an unspoiled, tropical paradise.

Brand Fiji constitutes 20% of the country's exports and 3% of its GDP.

Thus far, Brand Fiji has not spoken out against the military dictatorship.

Source: Democracy Now!, Sept. 3, 2009

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