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Fiji Time: 11:02 PM on Thursday 24 April

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Disaster relief

Geraldine Panapasa
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

GOVERNMENT ministries and departments have funds to cater for relief and support work during times of natural disasters says Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Filimoni Waqabaca.

And while it was still too early to provide an estimate of the cost of damage caused by Cyclone Evan, Mr Waqabaca said funds were readily available and sufficiently allocated for capital works throughout the year.

"Just like the disasters that struck us early in the year, various ministries and departments have allocations for any disaster that has happened," Mr Waqabaca said yesterday.

"If these ministries or departments need more funds then we need to re-declare it within the budget for 2012 — which means we can pull from all ministries and departments to meet the cost.

"The funds would be deployed from the capital expenditure for 2012 but we first need to estimate the extent of damage in different sectors like agriculture, infrastructure and tourism for example."

The estimated total capital expenditure for this year was set at over $554 million and this is expected to partially fund rehabilitation works apart from the Prime Ministers Relief Fund and allowances in the Provincial Development Department budget.

"The collation of assessment reports will be co-ordinated by the National Disaster Management Office. We want to ensure things return to normalcy as soon as possible," Mr Waqabaca said.

"In the briefing this morning (yesterday), the Prime Minister emphasised the need for government ministries to co-ordinate and work together to restore normalcy — so everyone is working round-the-clock.

"Ministries and departments are expected to submit their reports to the NDMO so that government can implement measures based on information received.

"There is still space in the budget for 2012 and we should be able to provide the funds," Mr Waqabaca said.

If the final estimates exceed the surplus funds available in the 2012 Budget, Mr Waqabaca said they would have to redeploy capital allocations in the 2013 Budget for rehabilitation works.

He said a revision of next year's budget was not necessary as some ministries had surplus funds available.

"Road links have been broken and helicopters were sent out today (yesterday) for an assessment. It is too early to provide an assessment and we want to collect the right information to provide an accurate account of the damage."

Investment Fiji chief executive officer Ravuni Uluilakeba also confirmed they were in the process of gathering information from the Western Division on the impact of the cyclone.

He said it would take a couple of days to assess the situation before commenting on the impact of natural disasters on investment in the country.