III. MECHANISMS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO ECONOMIC DECISION-MAKING
A. The political system and implications for environmental decision-making
In every country important decisions made are politically motivated. Politics will therefore play an integral part of any movement towards achieving sustainable development. Thus searching for improvements in the integration of environmental concerns into the central decision-making process will require keeping in mind the political system that is in place. The political system in Fiji is dominated by ethnic considerations. Voting under the 1990 Constitution is based entirely on ethnic lines, with a significant majority of seats held by indigenous people of Fiji. In addition, the positions of Prime Minister and President are reserved for indigenous persons of Fiji. The political power of the traditional chiefs is therefore enhanced. The electoral system provides disproportional representation for rural voters, compared with their urban counterparts.
With voting and candidates based entirely on communal lines, communal issues dominate elections. In some cases there might be an environmental issue that is of interest to a particular community, such as the preservation of coral reefs in the maritime electorates. However, environmental issues enerally cut across ethnic communities and thus the political system is not conducive to those issues receiving the attention they deserve. But it should be noted that the far-reaching proposed Sustainable Development Act was prepared by the current communally elected government. That Act, if implemented, will cater to the needs of the entire Fiji population.
Fiji is currently in the midst of a constitutional review process. The Constitution Review Commission has submitted a report that recommends a more integrated electoral system in which some seats will be contested on the basis of a common roll. The recommendations of the Commission have, in general, been accepted by a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee and are likely to be endorsed by Parliament. It is therefore expected that candidates will need to address broader cross-community issues such environmental protection.