Budget

‘More government debt with the new 2016-2017 budget’

Opposition member of Parliament and Leader of the National Federation Party (NFP) Hon. Biman Prasad said the Government debt will increase with the new 2016-2017 budget. Hon. Prasad speaking in his capacity as the Shadow Minister for Finance said the 2016-2017 budget was small minded. PRASAD: “Madam Speaker if you add this amount in Head 50 […]

Nacanieli Tuilevuka

July 4, 2016 11:50 am

Opposition member of Parliament and Leader of the National Federation Party (NFP) Hon. Biman Prasad said the Government debt will increase with the new 2016-2017 budget.

The Leader of the National Federation Party (NFP) and Shadow Minister for Finance Hon. Biman Prasad outside of Parliament. (Peni Shute/Newswire)
The Leader of the National Federation Party (NFP) and Shadow Minister for Finance Hon. Biman Prasad outside of Parliament. (Peni Shute/Newswire)

Hon. Prasad speaking in his capacity as the Shadow Minister for Finance said the 2016-2017 budget was small minded.

PRASAD: “Madam Speaker if you add this amount in Head 50 to all the amounts on requisition, the Minister of Finance alone will effectively have a control of the about 50% of the total expenditure of $3.6 billion in this budget amounting to about $1.8 billion.”

Hon. Prasad said the budget has no clear theme and does not have a vision.

PRASAD: “Nothing in his speech about growth in jobs, or growth in the real incomes of working people. What is the vision to achieve this? Where is the plan?.”

“Head 50 allocation reflects poor planning and allocation and the lack of trust in other ministries and ministers to oversee execution of the expenditures. It also allows the politicization of expenditure by the Government.”

Hon. Prasad said Fiji’s debt is increasing every year.

PRASAD: “Total debt increased from $4.2 billion in 2015 to an estimated $4.5 billion in July 2016 and then to $4.9 billion in July 2017. This means that every year we could be paying more than 30% our total revenue for debt repayments.”

He said the last eight years, the average economic growth rate is 2.8%.

PRASAD: “The Government seems to be proud of a long period of positive economic growth. But if you average it out over the last eight years, that is, between 2008-2015, the average growth rate has been just 2.8 %. The total debt projected as of July 2017 will be close to $5 billion. Madam Speaker this means that as of July 2017, every citizen of this country, children, men and women will be burdened with a debt level of about $6000 each.”

Hon. Prasad said the vat is reduced for the rich, but the poorest people will pay more vat.

PRASAD: “VAT is reduced for the rich, but the poorest people will pay more VAT.  The poor will continue to suffer from this. The Government should remove 9% VAT on basic food items to address the high cost of living and to help low income earners and the poor. I don’t believe the figures on poverty that government took so long to arrive at. We believe that the poverty rate remains around 32 percent and estimates suggest that another 35 percent are just above the poverty line.”

Hon. Prasad high external debt is also a worry as it has implications for foreign exchange.

PRASAD: “High external debt is also a worry as it has implications for foreign exchange. Our export base is weak and the projection for total exports for 2016 shows a decline over 2015.”

The shadow minister for finance said the closure of Rakiraki mill will ruin the economy of Rakiraki and Tavua.

PRASAD: “People who cannot tell the root of a cane plant from its top are tasked with making decisions to the detriment of the growers and the industry as a whole. In 2015, after the military regime and Fiji First Government have been in charge of the industry for 9 years, the number of active growers had fallen to 12,872. They produced 1.84 million tonnes of cane. The four mills produced 221,934 tonnes of sugar at a TCTS ratio of 8.3.”

Opposition members Hon. Mosese Bulitavu and Hon. Biman Prasad. (Peni Shute/Newswire)
Opposition members Hon. Mosese Bulitavu and Hon. Biman Prasad. (Peni Shute/Newswire)

Hon. Prasad said timber exports remain weak.

PRASAD: “Timber exports remain weak and here I want to pose this question to the government. What happened to the so called Mahogany exports? I don’t see any discussion on it at all?.”

Hon. Prasad said the health budget for 2016-2017 has markedly been reduced to 2.6% of GDP.

PRASAD: “The health budget for 2016/17 has markedly been reduced to 2.6% of GDP. This will put us at just over half of the World Health Organisation recommended ratio of 5% of GDP.”

Hon. Prasad recommended that government appoint an independent body within the Ministry of Public Service which could operate like the Public Service Commission and have an oversight of all public service appointments and promotions to keep it independent.

He said those employed in the civil service often did not know whether they would be returning to their jobs due to the delayed renewal of their contracts.

PRASAD: “The switch to contracts in the civil service has created chaos, instability, insecurity of employment and arbitrary decisions by Ministers. I know staff in government had their contracts lapsed for as long as a month before new contracts are issued and in between they have lost out on pay. This Madam Speaker is unacceptable. We need to go back to tenured appointments in the civil service.”

He added that teachers, nurses and police officers were among the many who were demoralized due to the poor salary these professions received .

PRASAD: “Civil servants including teachers, nurses and police officers have not had decent pay rises over the last 9 years. Madam Speaker, teachers are the worst affected. By our calculations, they deserve a pay rise of about 20%.”

The Minister for Finance and Economy Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will speak in his right of reply tomorrow.

The July sitting for the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji started this morning.

Minister for Finance and Economy Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum moved the second reading of the “2016-2017 Appropriation Bill”.

“A Bill for an Act to appropriate a sum of three billion, three hundred two million, two hundred twelve thousand, and seven hundred sixty-five dollars for the ordinary services of Government for the financial year ending 31 July 2017 (Bill No. 35 of 2016)”

Here is a list of members of parliament that will be speaking on the budget.

Monday, 04/07/2016

Speakers:

  1. Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad
  2. Hon. Rosy Akbar
  3. Hon. Josaia V. Bainimarama
  4. Hon. Parveen Kumar
  5. Hon. Veena K. Bhatnagar
  6. Hon. Mosese Bulitavu
  7. Hon. Joeli R. Cawaki
  8. Hon. Mohammed Dean
  9. Hon. Iliesa Delana
  10. Hon. Jiosefa Dulakiverata
  11. Hon. Lorna Eden
  12. Hon. Viliame Gavoka
  13. Hon. Semesa Karavaki
  14. Hon. Ro Teimumu Kepa
  15. Hon. Ratu Kiniviliame Kiliraki
  16. Hon. Semi T. Koroilavesau
  17. Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya
  18. Hon. Ratu Inoke Kubuabola
  19. Hon. Jilila Kumar
  20. Hon. Dr. Brij Lal
  21. Hon. Mikaele Leawere
  22. Hon. Alvick A Maharaj
  23. Hon. Ratu Suliano Matanitobua
  24. Hon. Alivereti Nabulivou
  25. Hon. Ruveni Nadalo
  26. Hon. Osea Naiqamu
  27. Hon. Ratu Sela Nanovo
  28. Hon. Vijay Nath
  29. Hon. Timoci Natuva
  30. Hon. Niko Nawaikula
  31. Hon. Mataiasi Niumataiwalu
  32. Hon. Alexander O’Connor
  33. Hon. Viam Pillay
  34. Hon. Aseri M. Radrodro

Tuesday 05/7/2016

  1. Hon. Salote Radrodro
  2. Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy
  3. Hon. Netani Rika
  4. Hon. Inia Seruiratu
  5. Hon. Balmindar Singh
  6. Hon. Prem Singh
  7. Hon. Ashneel Sudhakar
  8. Hon. Ratu Isoa Tikoca
  9. Hon. Laisenia Tuitubou
  10. Hon. Jone Usamate
  11. Hon. Anare Vadei
  12. Hon. Samuela Vunivalu
  13. Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa
  14. Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (Right of Reply)

The Finance Minister Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum presented the ‘2016-2017 Appropriation Bill’ to Parliament and also delivered the 2016-17 National Budget Address on the 22nd of June 2016.

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