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Climate for business

Manasa Kalouniviti
Saturday, June 17, 2017

THE recent 2017-2018 budget submission by the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) raised a lot of issues with Government relating to creating an easier climate within which to do business.

FCCI president Peter Mazey said FCCI members had attended the 2017/2018 National Budget consultations for the private sector on June 15 in Suva and their district members around the country also took the opportunity to make submissions at their regional meetings with the minister.

He told this newspaper that the submission was based on members' inputs and included some issues raised at local district levels.

"You will note that a lot of the issues raised relate to creating an easier climate within which to do business and while we acknowledge the improvements made, we are encouraging Government to continue and ensure that the ease of doing business continues to improve," Mr Mazey said.

The following is a brief summary of the issues raised by the FCCI under the first part of their submission:

1. Investment Fiji needs to be strengthened to effectively accommodate local investors because currently local investment is looked at only if the investment amount is $500,000 or above.

2. Introduce a new brand called "Fiji Organic" and put in place reasonable processes for qualification by producers/exporters to build on our natural resources and products thereby contributing to the agricultural and marine sectors and to our exports.

3. On the poultry industry, FCCI said feed was roughly 80 per cent of production and changes are needed to current archaic laws and also the introduction of enabling policies to attract more investment are required to capitalise on the huge growth potential of the industry.

4. A separate unit is required for the coconut industry to monitor processes used in manufacturing palm oils and other products and to ensure consistent quality is maintained.

5. To bolster the SMEs in Fiji and since agribusiness forms a major portion of SMEs in Fiji, Government or perhaps a private player ( possibly PPP model) needs to set up "a centralised buying house" for farmers, mostly those who farm on a commercial scale.

6. Ministry of Employment, FNPF and FRCA to jointly deal with the issue of staff leaving employment contrary to their valid employment contracts (especially in the non-professional sectors and small businesses). Employees leave as soon they get a better offer, without any concern for the current employer and the terms in their contract.

7. Government's development plans to encourage investment/partnership in the low cost housing sector must be widened through facilitating tenants who pay VAT on rentals to claim back VAT. Residential accommodation rentals exceeding $100,000 per year attract VAT from August 1, 2016 (as announced in last year's budget).

8. The online services for Registrar of Companies to be fully functional to achieve fast registrations and searches.

9. The current six (6) per cent environment levy policy (ELT) is not on a level playing field and in some cases unfairly applies to businesses which do not pollute the environment. The ELT should not be looked at as a luxury tax or tourist tax (as it has been explained since its introduction), but as a genuine tax for high-end environment polluting industries.

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