Interesting budget

Government has announced a budget that looks positive from the outset.

Sceptics will insist it was expected though.

Last night, the budget touched on the family and on the youth and will no doubt inch out a lot of interest on a number of initiatives.

Of particular interest though would be the massive increase in the budget for the education sector.

The sector received a $1 billion boost off the $4.6b the Government budgeted for its capital and operational expenditures.

It considers the 2018-’19 financial year as one of the most ambitious yet for the education of Fijians.

This allocation, it points out, makes it an “unprecedented billion-dollar year” for education in Fiji.

Within that allocation, $535.4m was allocated to the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, $123.8m for higher education institutions, $255m for various scholarships and loans administered by the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board, $90m for rehabilitation and reconstruction of schools damaged by tropical cyclones, $2.8m for agricultural and vocational training for rural communities and $850,300 as a grant to the Frank Hilton Organisation.

The massive share for education means more investment in youths and subsequently our future.

Duty has been cut on imported fruits and raised on fizzy drinks. This is obviously targeted at the rising NCDs figures.

Then there is the increase on plastic bag levy, obviously to discourage the use of plastics and promote the use of reusable bags, right in line with the direction the State has taken on environmental initiatives.

As expected, the prices of cigarettes and alcohol went up, taking a further shot at consumers’ pockets.

The Economy Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum highlighted a number of new initiatives including $5m allocated to fund a parenthood assistance payment.

Under the initiative, after childbirth, Fijian mothers from families with a household income of below $30,000 would be given a $1000 grant in a bank account for each newborn child registered with the Births, Deaths and Marriages office. $500 would be available immediately and $500 could be accessed when the child enters Year One.

This “is intended to assist families by easing the financial burden of parenthood and meeting the needs of their new baby”.

It will be interesting to find out what the Opposition has to say critically of the budget.

How it analyses and dissects it for the masses will be important.

It will be in the best interest of the nation that any nagging questions on the budget are put to rest.

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