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Fiji Shadow Finance Minister says budget lacks vision to face economic challenges

Fiji Shadow Finance Minister says budget lacks vision to face economic challenges

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by July 5, 2016 Regional News

Fiji’s  2016-2017 National Budget was labelled a “small minded budget” by Shadow Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad.

While delivering his response this morning in Parliament on the Budget he said that the Government’s 2016-2017 budget was only big on vote-catching spending promises.[restrict]

“It offers no vision on how to prepare our country for the many economic challenges before us.”

Prasad backed his statement by using an example of how Fiji would face a crash in economic returns for sugar come 2017.

“From about $192 million (US$92 million) in sugar receipts that we received in 2015, we will probably receive no more than $135million (US$65 million) in 2016.

“This will not just affect cane farmers. It will affect communities, towns, regions and ultimately the whole country.  The social and economic disruption will be severe. We have all known about this for years. And what is the Government’s plan? What is its strategy to prepare us for this? It is a subsidy on fertilizer. That’s it. The same tired strategy that we have had for more than 10 years.”

He said the government’s decision to change the annual fiscal year to July 31 will enable them to bury their economic bad news for a little bit longer.

He stated that the Minister of Economy during his address spoke about all the money that he would be spending but he was strangely vague about how he would raise it.

Prasad said the Minister stated how they would  improve tax compliance thus nothing about asset sales.

“This is the sale of shares in Airports Fiji Limited and the Fiji Electricity Authority which he has promised for two years and which is supposed to raise $500 million (US$250 million).

“Of course it is not good economics to sell assets to pay for recurrent expenditure but he has budgeted to receive this money, and it has not come in. This delay is costing taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments each month,” said Prasad.

Meanwhile,  Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has defended the 2016/2017 national budget as inclusive and will benefit all Fijians.

While debating in parliament , Bainimarama says the government has spent 40% of the budget on capital works.

He said this has been a consistent practice of the government.

“Before 2006, 85% of the budget covered operating costs, no substantive assets were being built and no real effort was made to give our fellow Fijians the means to lift themselves out of poverty and improve their lives so year in, year out 85% of the budget was spent and nothing much was left for it to show in the next fiscal year.”

He said there was also no tangible programme to maintain state assets.

Bainimarama says his goal is to end poverty in Fiji which is why the government is spending 60% to fund operations and 40% on capital expenditures. SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/FBC/ NEWSPACNEWS [/restrict]

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