21 Jun 2019

Fijians left behind in 'Bainimarama boom Budget:', warns Opposition

4:58 pm on 21 June 2019

Fiji's Opposition parties say the National Budget will fail to reduce the cost of living for the people of Fiji and that they will be left asking what's in it for them.

Pio Tikoduadua

Pio Tikoduadua Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0

Last week the Frank Bainimarama-led government delivered its budget for the coming year on the back of growth it described as the "Bainimarama boom".

But National Federation Party (NFP) member Pio Tikoduadua said the government had failed to provide incentives to increase wages and salaries.

"This is what this boom-for-whom budget is all about," he said.

"And tragically it's about nothing new. Just a re-hash of the old and the vain attempt to muddy the water with high-tech convolution that will not feed hungry mouths."

Mr Tikoduadua urged the government not to "further oppress and enslave the people of Fiji".

"This budget will not provide a decent and meaningful increase to the minimum wage to make it a living wage," he said.

The cost of living, family problems and the price of property were among concerns raised by the country's youth ahead of the general elections last November.

Mr Tikoduadua also questioned the budget's claim to a boom.

"For whom? This budget is all about replicating the status quo of our sugar industry which has suffered a 50 percent downturn in the last 12 years under the Bainimarama boom," he said.

"And this Budget is also slowly but surely killing the goose that is laying the golden egg - our tourism industry.

"By continuing to impose 25 percent taxes that are up-pricing the industry - compared to lucrative Asian destinations like Bali," Mr Tikoduadua said.

Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka said the budget should bring confidence, hope, progress, unity and prosperity "for our people".

Fiji's SODELPA leader, Sitiveni Rabuka.

Fiji's SODELPA leader, Sitiveni Rabuka. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

He said it is unfortunate the government's economic plan is only full of self-praising, political rhetoric with very little attention and articulation on details of expenditure, revenue measures and incentives.

"The reduction of around $FJ800 million or 17 percent in expenditure will not provide us the fiscal space to further reduce debt portfolio," Mr Rabuka said.

"There is a real risk that we will go into a vicious circle in the debt trap if we continue to borrow or raise green or blue bond.

"Whether it is a bond or loan, they have to be repaid."

Mr Rabuka said most of the proposed expenditure cuts would affect remuneration of civil servants and "to some extent capital projects for basic utilities such as infrastructure and water supply.

"A more balanced approach should be considered to minimise the risk of people losing their jobs and to ensure dilapidated infrastructure continue to be improved.

Mr Rabuka said with trends in the last four years, it was unlikely the almost $FJ80m earmarked for the sales of government assets would be realised.

"This means that the 2.7 percent of deficit as a percentage of GDP in 2019/20 will not be realised and our deficit will increase further," he said.

NFP leader Biman Prasad warned the government has run out of money which is reflective in the drastic cutbacks in the Budget.

The deputy leader of the opposition in Fiji and NFP president Biman Prasad.

The deputy leader of the opposition in Fiji and NFP president Biman Prasad. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

He said the government should have listened to his speeches in the last four years which could have contributed some sense to the latest Budget.

"This is a party which is suffering from a culture of sycophancy and servility and we don't need advice from sycophants.

"This is a government which is suffering from cognitive dissonance. It's a disease where you begin to believe everything that you do - even if the reality is staring at your face, you don't believe it.

"And when somebody shows you the reality, you get very angry, you attack them, you personalise them, you say you know."

Professor Prasad said Fiji's economy is not strong and successful but one of mediocre fuelled by debt.