News 22 Aug 2018
Howard Politini, the chair of PIPSO (Private Islands Private Sector Organisation), knows the challenges first hand to tackling the NCD (Non Communicable Diseases) epidemic spreading throughout the Pacific responsibility.
“I had a quadruple bypass 20 years ago,” recalls Howard, who attended the Pacific Wave Conference hosted by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland earlier this month (August 6-7).
“I could say that I’m a victim because I’m Tongan and our genes are built that way, but I was more of a victim because of my lifestyle … I needed to change … and many more of our people need to as well. Lifestyle is a matter of choice and changing culture to everyone’s benefit”
Change he did, enabling Howard to continue with his military career, play Golden Oldies rugby and walk the Suva Marathon with his staff and friends from the Bank South Pacific in Suva in July, where he’s General Manager of Human Resources.
Howard’s depth of experience spans both the private sector (including human resources and rural banking) Education and the military, with both the Royal Fiji Military Territorial and Regular Forces and the United Nations.
In many ways, he says the fight to combat climate change has overshadowed the urgency to tackle the spread of NCDs, even though the Pacific region and its people are most vulnerable globally in both categories.
But he’s also wary of applying more sugar taxes on its citizens, such as the 20c per litre tax imposed on sugar sweetened and carbonated drinks in 2016, particularly as sugar has been the predominant and historic export earner for Fiji since the early 1870s.
“As employers, we have the potential and the responsibility to be greater influencers for our people, starting with our kids and family,” says Howard.
“A sustainable solution also has to be a collaborative one for it to work effectively. And so much of it starts from the home. As a spokesperson for employers, we’re part of the community, too.”
PIPSO is a leading private sector representative body in the Pacific region. Its mission is to advocate for and drive private sector-driven economic growth for the benefit of the region. Its vision is to promote and inspire the growth of Pacific businesses by championing the interests of the private sector by enhancing businesses competitiveness and growth.