Australia Bankrolls $68M Fiji Airport, Amid Pacific Competition With Beijing

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
August 2, 2021 Updated: August 2, 2021

Australia will provide $68 million to Fiji to assist with airport upgrades amid a wider influence push into the South Pacific region against Beijing’s encroaching hegemony.

The government-backed Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP) will partner with ANZ Bank to support infrastructure upgrades to increase passenger capacity at Nadi International Airport to help the nation recover from COVID-19.

Zed Seselja, minister for the Pacific, said Australia was committed to supporting the South Pacific with “high-quality, affordable” infrastructure projects.

“This project is a great example of why Australia established the AIFFP,” Seselja said in a statement to The Epoch Times.

“Australia’s loan and guarantee package will enable Fiji Airports to continue development during COVID-19, preparing for the reopening of Fiji’s international border.”

ANZ Bank CEO Shayne Elliott said in a statement (pdf): “ANZ plays an important role connecting customers to the growing trade and investment opportunities across the region.

“Investing in infrastructure that puts Fiji in a position to quickly scale up capacity once international travel resumes is critical to driving future growth.”

The airport funding will be the fourth project supported by the AIFFP, which comes under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. So far, the body has bankrolled five projects in the region, including a solar farm in Papua New Guinea, an undersea cable for Palau, and a hydro-power system in the Solomon Islands.

Announced and established in 2018 under Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the AIFFP is part of Australia’s wider Pacific Step-up, which was established amid concerns that Beijing was building influence in the South Pacific region via low-cost lending to island nations.

Epoch Times Photo
People gather at the airport three times per week to welcome and farewell passengers from Suva, Fiji, on Aug. 15, 2018, in Funafuti, Tuvalu. (Fiona Goodall/Getty Images for Lumix)

The latest announcement comes following revelations in July that the government and Australian telecommunications giant Telstra were working together on a potential bid to buy the mobile networks of Digicel—a global telco with interests mainly in the Pacific and Caribbean region.

Experts told The Epoch Times that despite the deal not being commercially viable, the government was still keen to bankroll a potential acquisition of the company to ward off any potential bid from Beijing.

The South Pacific region has been the center of a tug of war between democratic allies and Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has used initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), vaccine donations, and diplomatic influence to gain support from Pacific Island leaders.

The response from Pacific nations has varied, with some nations embracing ties with Beijing and others outright rejecting it.

Over the weekend, Samoa’s new Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa stood by a pledge to scrap a BRI port development near the nation’s capital worth $100 million.

Her stance was a major shift from that of Samoa’s incumbent leader Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who, for most of his two-decade-long rule, has maintained close ties with the CCP.

Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng