War of words – Biman claims Chaudhry ‘jumping the gun’

Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad has labelled the Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry’s claims as “jumping the gun”.

In a press statement released on Thursday, Mr Chaudhry expressed concern at the warning from Finance Minister that tax increases are “inevitable”.

He said this was disturbing as any increase in taxes, more so an increase in VAT and Customs Duty, would affect the lower to middle income families as it would push up prices.

Mr Chaudhry said the poor and low income families simply do not have the capacity to sustain any further increases in the cost of living.

In response, Prof Prasad said Mr Chaudhry has made stories and exaggerated his claim.

“I think he’s jumping the gun,” Prof Prasad said.

“He has obviously made more stories and exaggerated his claim more than he should. But I leave him there. All I can say is that this is a government which is determined to address the fundamental problems within the economy.

“One of course includes the high levels of debt. So, we will have a two-pronged approach.

“One is to ensure that there is fiscal consolidation, but also we want to make sure that there is a balance between fiscal consolidation and looking after our people.

“People who are jumping the gun should know that this government is about working together. So I will leave the critics at this stage.”

Mr Chaudhry said he pointed on the impact tax increases would have on the lives of poor particularly with increases in VAT and Customs Duty.

“There is no question of my jumping the gun as the minister claims,” he said.

“It is, in fact, he who has jumped the gun by announcing there will be tax increases even before the Fiscal Review Committee had commenced its work.” Prof Prasad said he had not announced which taxes would go up.

“We didn’t say which tax we are going to increase or which tax will increase. All we said is that the review of the expenditure by the World Bank, and what we see is that we have to address the expenditure side and the revenue side.

“And when you look at the expenditure and revenue obviously you look at the tax system, the tax rates. So the committee right now is just saying all that. “So I would just say, leave the Fiscal Review Committee to do the work.

“We have the economic summit and in that summit, we will invite him (Mr Chaudhry). We will invite all the opposition members as well to come and join us in the summit.”

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