PM still silent on Fiji’s economic situation

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka with Alesi Taga (left), Filipe Taga and former netball rep Taufa Taga after the church service at the Nabua Methodist Church in Suva yesterday. Picture: ALESI TAGA/SUPPLIED

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka says he is not in a position to speak about Fiji’s real economic situation.

For now, he said the focus was on utilising as efficiently as possible the country’s finances, based on the 2022-2023 Budget passed in Parliament last year.

The PM said this during a news conference last week where he was asked if he had been briefed on Fiji’s economic situation.

“We have not gotten to that,” he said.

“We have just gotten to the use of the budget that is remaining – which of our policies we can introduce right away without affecting the bottom line in that (2022-2023) budget.

“The other ones about employment, investment, and investor confidence that will also be part of the subsequent brief, and one of our policies we have to implement quickly to encourage investment coming in.”

In 1998 under Mr Rabuka’s government, Fiji’s debt to GDP ratio was 21 per cent, it increased in 2006 under Laisenia Qarase to 37 per cent – and in 2021 under the Voreqe Bainimarama government was 86 per cent.

While delivering the 2021-2022 Budget in July 2021, then Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji’s debt was expected to rise to $9 billion or 91.6 per cent of GDP.

For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum projected Fiji’s debt to be at $9.98 billion or 85.2 per cent of GDP.

In an opinion piece published in The Fiji Times on November 19, 2022, renowned economist Professor Wadan Narsey said under the Sitiveni Rabuka government – between 1992 and 1998 – the average household debt rose from $8739 to $9048, an increase of $309 per household (in nominal terms) and the average household income rose from $40,521 to $43,091, an increase of $2570, or almost eight times the increase in public debt.

In stark comparison, under the Bainimarama Government, the average household debt rose by a massive $25,486, while the average household income rose from $47,126 to $47,877 – an increase of $1751.

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