Budget scrutiny

TWO political parties are in agreement that the 2018-2019 National Budget is a “cosmetic solution” to the country’s high cost of living.

The National Federation Party (NFP) and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) believe there is nothing in the budget to alleviate the high cost of living that is of most serious concern to the people.

As we head towards the 2018 General Election, The Fiji Times asked the five registered opposition political parties contesting the 2018 polls about their views on the 2018-2019 National Budget handed down by the Government on Thursday night.

We asked:

  • What is your party’s response to the 2018-2019 National Budget handed down by the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in Parliament on Thursday?

The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), Unity Fiji party and the Freedom Alliance Party had not responded to the questions when this edition went to press last night.

The NFP and the FLP responded to the question.

NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad said the budget was a desperate attempt by Government to offer pre-election bribes to the voters of Fiji.

“We believe Government’s desperate attempt to offer pre-election bribes to the voters of Fiji through the 2018-19 budget will fail to weaken the strengthening winds of change blowing all over Fiji,” Prof Prasad said.

“What has been announced by the Minister for Economy will not reduce the skyrocketing cost of living that is strangulating a vast majority of our ordinary citizens.”

He said while the budget had some good initiatives such as increased maternity leave, introducing paternity leave and a $1000 allowance for birth of a child, there was nothing to alleviate the cost of living that was of most serious concern to the people.

“All it has done is to make noodle flavour duty-free as well as zero duty on imported fruits and vegetables. But this is insignificant.

“Our people are smart enough. They understand real, practical solutions that will bring lasting improvement to their livelihood, instead of cosmetic solutions offered by this Government.”

FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry questioned the timing of the announcement of the national budget.

“One must question why an important event like the presentation of the National Budget is timed to take place on the eve (Thursday) of a public holiday (yesterday),” Mr Chaudhry said.

“It was originally scheduled to be presented a week earlier on June 22 but was, without an explanation, delayed by a week to coincide with the National Wellness and Sports Day holiday.

“The curious timing of the budget presentation, coupled with the subsequent scarcity of information on it, makes one wonder whether the whole event was planned to minimise reactions to the budget which at best can only be described as hollow and irrelevant to the expectations and aspirations of our people.”

He said through the budget, the Economy Minister failed to address the crucial issues affecting a majority of our people who have to struggle each day to provide for their families.

“Yet the budget does little or nothing to address these critical social issues facing the nation.

“The 9 per cent VAT imposed by the FijiFirst Government in 2016 on basic food items stays despite urgent pleas for its removal to reduce food prices.

“The budget identifies no worthwhile measures to tackle the high unemployment rate among our youths which stands at 25 per cent, if not more. It is silent on measures to reduce poverty through the determination of a fair national minimum wage rate.”

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