9 July, 2018, 4:38 pm
GOVERNMENT must and should always bear the responsibility of assisting Fijians following natural disasters.
This remark was made in Parliament today by Shadow Economy Minister Aseri Radrodro.
While addressing Parliament on the 2018/2019 National Budget, Mr Radrodro claimed Government had blatantly shown in recent years that they do not care for the Fijian people.
He said by allowing Fiji National Provident Fund members to dip into their retirement funds following a natural disaster was nothing short of a political gimmick.
He said this was also an indirect attempt by Government to inject consumer spending into the economy.
“On that same note Madam Speaker, its ironic government is allowing members to dip into their retirement savings,” Mr Radrodro said.
“This contradicts their intent of restructure of the FNPF. Government must therefore do the right thing and compensate pensioners who were badly affected following the restructure of the FNPF.
“Many of them we have stories of sufferings to tell which is sad when they share their sufferings. They knew what they were going to receive when they retired.”
In February 2016 after TC Winston hit Fiji, FNPF had relaxed the requirements for Natural Disaster Assistance, to help members to assist themselves or their families in rebuilding their lives immediately.
This led to a significant outflow of $275.5 million being withdrawn by FNPF members under the Natural Disaster assistance – which eventually resulted in the general reduction of members’ general account and their total balance.
This was also reflected in the total withdrawals of 2016 reaching a high $566.1m and later stabilized to $280.2m in the 2017 financial year.
While the pay-out related to the TC Winston natural disaster assistance decreased the funds available for investment by $275.5m, the payout to members was fully met from the cash buffer in the FNPF current accounts and did not require any liquidation of investments.
And despite the significant out-flow, FNPF stated that they were able to achieve growth in its growing investment portfolio.
The FNPF recorded “strong performance” in the 2017 financial year raking in a net profit of $359.5m, an increase of 8.4 per cent from the 2016 profit of $331.6m.
Earlier this year, FNPF had also assisted victims of major floodings in the Western Division under the Natural Disaster Withdrawal Scheme.
This assistance, which enabled members to access up to $1000, was deducted from the members’ General Account eligibility.
This saw a total of 6351 FNPF members applying for the flood assistance funds totaling $5.33 million as of April 20, 2018.
Meanwhile, Mr Radrodro said a SODELPA government would grow the economy by ensuring the private sector was supported with the right environment conducive to increase investor confidence.