Fiji looks to Bollywood for economic boost
Published 22/12/2010 | 11:23
Bollywood is bringing its glitter and glamour to the military-run Pacific state of Fiji.
Three Bollywood productions are due to be filmed in Fiji over the next 12 months, generating millions of dollars for the country's beleaguered economy.
Bollywood productions have been shot in Mauritius, Britain and Australia in the past, but this is believed to be the first time the Indian film industry has extended its reach the Pacific.
Tax rebates and incentives brought in by the interim government, which is run by self-appointed prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, helped to lure director Prem Raj to the country to film Bombay Mumbai, Kia and Let's Talk Love.
Pre-production on Bombay Mumbai has already started and the other films are expected to start shooting from July.
Reports have suggested that the three films could generate $10m (€7.6m) in revenue for the country.
Florence Swamy, head of the Fiji Audio Visual Commission, said the Bollywood films would hopefully lead to other valuable film projects being based in Fiji.
"We are very excited, we hope this will lead to employment opportunities for Fijians and really boost the local economy," she said.
"Once one Bollywood production has been successful that will also lead to other productions because the industry is small and people will be talking to each other about how easy it is to film here."
However, Brij V Lal, professor of Pacific and Asian History at the Australian National University, said the productions would only bring short-term gain to the country, which had suffered from an exodus of investors.
"This sort of thing won't fill the coffers of the state," he said.
Prof Lal said Fiji's sugar industry, which accounts for 22pc of the country's GDP, was collapsing and foreign investors were wary of pouring money into the nation thanks to the regime's treatment of foreign-owned companies.
Last month the government forced Fiji Water, America's biggest seller of imported bottled water, to accept a hefty new bottling tax in return for being allowed to continue operating in the country.
Earlier this year, it forced Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to sell the Fiji Times newspaper after bringing in new media laws that decreed all media must be 90pc owned by Fijian citizens.
"This sort of thing sends the signal that unless you are prepared to play the game according to the whims of the military regime then you are not welcome," Prof Lal said.
"Investors don't have the confidence that the military regime won't bring in a new decree tomorrow that makes it impossible for their business to operate."
Mr Bainirama seized power in 2007 and last year sacked the judiciary, saying democratic elections would not be held until 2014 at the earliest.