27 Mar 2020

Covid-19: Fiji govt unveils $US400m stimulus package

3:56 pm on 27 March 2020

Fiji's government has unveiled a $US400 million response Budget to address the coronavirus threat.

Fiji's attorney general,  Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Fiji's attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Photo: AFP/Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto

Fiji currently has five confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Finance Minister Aiyaz Saiyed Khaiyum announced the stimulus package in Parliament on Thursday.

Mr Khaiyum said the Budget would bring relief to Fijian families with more than half the funds allocated to workers and businesses.

The Budget would also equip doctors and nurses with the tools they needed to combat the virus and keep the country safe.

From 6 April, workers in the hospitality sector who had lost their jobs or on reduced hours would get up to $US435 from their National Provident Fund (FNPF). If they did not have the funds in their account, the government would subsidise the difference.

People affected in the lockdown at Lautoka through job losses and reduced hours could now access $US217, he said. The government would also subsidise if they didn't have the funds in their FNPF.

Affected employers should continue to pay salaries as normal and the government would reimburse them. For unpaid salaries for those earning less than $US13,000 the state would fund those upfront, he said.

From 1 April to 31 December, FNPF employee contributions would decrease from 10 percent to five percent. Employer contributions would also reduce from 10 to five percent.

Mr Khaiyum said the government would pay 21 days' sick leave to people earning less than $US13,000 if they tested positive to the coronavirus.

Loan repayments have been deferred for six months including mortgages, personal loans, hire purchase for those who lost their jobs or are on reduced pay. Banks would also waive all charges on minimum balances for customers.

The Reserve Bank (RBF) will make $US26m worth of loans to banks at an interest rate of one percent, he said. The banks could then offer loans to small and medium businesses and customers at a maximum of five percent.

The RBF, he said, would also re-activate and expand the Disaster Rehabilitation and Containment Facility.

Mr Khaiyum said Energy Fiji Limited would now fully match the state's existing 50 percent subsidy on the first 100 units of electricity for households earning less than $US13,000 annually.

For students with tertiary education loans, all repayments have been suspended until 31 December, 2020. He said that would provide working Fijians about $US4.5m in relief.

Civil servants, including those working in state-owned enterprises and companies, would not receive pay cuts. However, the prime minister, his Cabinet and MPs would receive a 20 percent pay cut.

There would be no water disconnections until 31 December, 2020. The Water Authority of Fiji has also agreed to cart water to any area impacted by cuts through July this year - at a cost of just over $US2m.