No freebies

INITIATIVES announced in the 2018-2019 National Budget are funded by Fijian taxpayers and are not freebies, said University of the South Pacific economist Dr Neelesh Gounder.

He said taxpayers paid for government expenditures.

“So while health services and education are free, Fijian families are paying for these through the tax system such as direct taxes and value added tax (VAT),” Dr Gounder said.

He said with all these new initiatives, Fijians needed to consider whether they got a fair deal in return for paying taxes.

Dr Gounder has also questioned Government’s expenditure in the 2018-2019 National Budget.

“The total revenue forecast for the 2018-2019 budget is $4.23billion against an expenditure target of $4.65 billion.

“The revenue forecast includes $395million worth of government assets sales. Considering the source of this $395m as well as history of revenue forecasts, there are question marks regarding expenditure commitments in this budget.

“One question is what expenditures might not be met if there is a revenue shortfall because asset sales do not materialise.”

Dr Gounder claimed since 2012, the Government had not once met its budget forecasted revenue.

“One of the main reasons for this is the projection of asset sales which never materialise, but are nonetheless budgeted again the following year.

“For instance, $371m worth of asset sales was predicted for the 2017-2018 budget year, but it only managed to realise $0.6m. As a result, it had to reduce actual expenditure by around $480m in the 2017-2018 budget.”

He said based on this type of ongoing reductions, it was reasonable to question how the Government could guarantee that spending commitments made in this year’s budget would actually be delivered upon.

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