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Compiled by RACHNA LAL
Welcome to Hard Talk, where we pose questions to both top executives and budding entrepreneurs on some of the major issues involving business.
There are a select group of women in Fiji who have consistently maintained their image as a talented and successful business professionals. Dr Nur Bano Ali, is one of them and is obviously a trendsetter for many.
She can no doubt be called a woman of substance with her background as a professional accountant (current managing partner of Aliz Pacific, an accounting firm, president of the Suva Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the president of Women in Business).
Dr Ali is now a business advisor for corporate commercial businesses and says she enjoys doing that.
She started her own business as a young women in her twenties in 1985, at a time when Fiji was far more backward in its attitudes to women in commerce.
She has been in the accounting profession for almost 30 years and in business for 27 years and a strong advocate of promoting women in business.
As managing partner of Aliz Pacific, Dr Ali says she is responsible for the management and operations of the business, including staff, client, business strategy and direction.
“Suva Chamber of Commerce, I lead the executive to carry out the chamber’s role of being the facilitator and promoter of business activity in Suva and indeed Fiji as we are the capital city,” she said.
“Women in Business, I lead our executive to promote and encourage women’s participation in business and-commerce.”
Dr Ali has been involved with the Women in Business since its inception in 1998.
Thirteen questions with Dr Nur Bano Ali, a woman of many talents.
1. What challenges are businesses in Suva facing?
Infrastructure and government bureaucracy, new business’s licencing rules without adequate awareness.
2. What is the Chamber doing to assist businesses? How can Government be of assistance?
We hold regular forums and exchange information with each other. We receive information from our members on issues challenging them and direct it on their behalf to relevant agencies. We take up changes in regulatory policies and make submissions on behalf of our members on a national level.
For example, we met with Fiji Electricity Authority to make a submission on the need to put up cash deposit with the increased electricity charges and. We got them to waive that condition and replace that with bank guarantees. One of our members reported they got their deposit refunded as a result.
3. What innovations is the Chamber coming up with?
l Adopting a proactive approach to engage with government for better service delivery to business.
l Organising regular business forums. Our annual one called Fiji Business Forum is a new feature on our calendar since last year. Next one is on the August 4, 2012 and we invite all businesses to our Fiji Business Forum.
4. What is the advantage of joining the Suva Chamber of Commerce for a business?
l Networking opportunity for your business
l Access to information on policy changes
l Opportunity to participate in policy changes through the National budget submission process
5. Why are you so passionate about ‘Women in Business’?
This is because I believe women have great potential which if not developed, will be lost and the world will be a lesser place because of that loss.
Women’s contribution to the commercial sector remains “invisible” and not actively encouraged.
6. What potential do you believe women have in Fiji and how can this be achieved?
They have enormous potential. We need to have a Ministry for Women on its own without add-ons if we are serious about realising their potential.
Fiji will be a better place with more women in leadership and decision making processes.
7. For women who are in control in business, do you believe their authority and decision is questioned and undermined more often than usual by staff, in particular men?
This does not happen to me but yes, more often than not in Fiji, women bosses particularly at a managerial and executive level are undermined by both men and women.
8. What is it that holds back women in the business world?
Fear of the unknown and trepidation is what holds back women in the business world.
9. What can be done to overcome this?
Creating visibility and awareness of the fact that women can do whatever they like.
Showing women’s success through examples of women owned and operated businesses
10. As someone who manages a chartered accounting firm, and being a professional accountant yourself, what can you say about accounting standards practiced in Fiji?
The accounting standards practiced in Fiji are international.
However, we do have unlicenced bookkeepers who call themselves accountants creating a disreputable image for the entire profession.
In a small society such as Fiji, we need only a handful of these types of operations to tarnish the profession.
The profession needs to draw the distinction between the bookkeepers and licenced accountants and make this publicly known.
Only qualified and licenced people should be allowed to call themselves accountants.
11. Do we have enough qualified professional accountants in Fiji?
There are quite a number of professional accountants in Fiji.
It is difficult to find experienced ones because they are migratory and keep moving. This however is a global phenomenon. We have to keep training and losing them.
12. What can you say about the performance of graduates from the universities in Fiji who have joined your accounting firm?
Our graduates from Fiji universities are quite comparable to any other.
We have quite smart young people who can be taught professional skills.
However, one glaring limitation in their qualification is their ability to communicate, both written and oral which presents a great challenge.
13. What needs to be done to develop the standard of accounting professionals in Fiji?
Enhanced training on communication ethics and responsibility, self-respect and pride in being a professional.