17 Jan 2007

Fiji interim minister says December coup saved country from bankruptcy

10:30 am on 17 January 2007

Fiji's interim minister for commerce, industry, investment and communication says the military intervention in December saved the country from financial bankruptcy.

Taito Waradi says the economy was already in bad shape because of a combination of ill-conceived policies and lack of fiscal discipline by the deposed Qarase government.

Mr Waradi was the president of the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry prior to taking up his appointment in the interim administration last week.

He says when the former government's budget was presented in November last year, he had expressed concern that the budget was not tight enough to address the widening current account deficit and the disproportionately rising debt levels.

He says had it not been for the military intervention the policies of the deposed government would inevitably have led Fiji to bankruptcy and a bailout by the International Monetary Fund.

Mr Waradi says Papua New Guinea and many African countries can testify to the stringent and humiliating austerity measures imposed by the IMF in its bailout process.

He says Fiji's credit rating was downgraded before the coup by the ill-conceived decision to borrow substantial amounts of money on the international bond market.

Mr Waradi says measures to restore investor confidence will be the top priority of the new administration.