NFP says Goyt’s National Development Plan is Lying about sugar

The National Federation Party says the credibility of Government’s 5- year and 20-year National Development Plan (NDP) has been shattered by the use of unbelievable and misleading statistics and projections on sugarcane and sugar production.

The NFP said no Government in the world apart from the “worst dictatorships”, would manufacture statistics in the manner that is contained in the National Development Plan.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said TCTS (tonnes of cane required to manufacture one tonne of sugar), crop and sugar production statistics, both for the 2016 and 2017 harvesting and crushing seasons, as well as for the future, are “totally misleading and clearly aimed at fooling” not only the people of Fiji but delegations of participating nations to the recently concluded COP23 in Germany where the NDP was launched.

This National Plan, particularly its section on sugar is a fraud on the nation. Those who should take responsibility for this statistically fraudulent action are the Fiji Sugar Corporation, the Ministry of Sugar and the Minister for Economy himself who has endorsed the Plan in his Forward about the unmatched levels of confidence of the people of Fiji in the direction Fiji has and will take in future”.

“Even statistics for the 2016 season are wrong. The Plan states in 2016, Fiji produced 1.6 million tonnes of cane and 164,000 tonnes of sugar. The correct statistics recorded by the industry and is 1.38 million tonnes of cane and 139,503 tonnes of sugar at a TCTS of 9.9”.

“If this is not deliberately misleading the rest of the world then what is?”

“Fraud is the best way to describe statistics and projections for 2017 to 2021. The 2017 cane production is stated to be 1.8 million tonnes and sugar production of 313,000 tonnes at an unbelievable TCTS of 5.75. No sugar producing country in the world has ever achieved or will record such a TCTS”.

“This year’s actual production would be around 1.64 million tonnes of cane and around 166,000 tonnes of sugar at a TCTS of about 9.8”.

“The fraudulent concoction of figures gets worse. For the 2018 cane production is forecasted at 2 million tonnes with 361,000 tonnes of sugar produced at a TCTS of 5.54. In 2019 cane production is predicted to be 2.2 million tonnes and sugar production is stated to be 402,000 tonnes at a TCTS of 5.47. For 2020 and 2021, cane production is listed to be 3 million tonnes and sugar production is forecasted as 438,000 at a TCTS of 6.84”, Professor Prasad said.

The NFP Leader said the Fiji sugar industry’s best TCTS ratio was twice 7.4 in 1977 and 1987, and 7.9 in1975 and 1994 when the four mills produced 517,000 tonnes of sugar.

This Government is clueless about how to revive the sugar industry. Bureau of Statistics data shows that in 2015 only 39,000 hectares of cane were harvested compared to 58,000 hectares in 2006. This is a massive decline of 19,000 hectares. This confirms that the industry has taken a nosedive under both the military regime and the Fiji First Government”.

Professor Prasad said the Plan also confirms that Fiji First will not build a new sugar mill in Rakiraki following its decision to close down the Penang Mill because cartage to Rarawai is projected for the next five years.

“Here again, the Plan is incorrect in stating Government provided cartage subsidy to Ra growers for 175,000 tonnes of cane when the total production in Rakiraki this year was only 118,000 tonnes”.

It is absolutely shameful that the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar launched a Plan full of false and unrealistic projections. As the Minister for Sugar, he should be concerned about the fraudulent statistics because the buck stops with him”.

“As it is, it is a cardinal sin to launch a plan without it being scrutinised, debated ad endorsed by the representatives of the people in Parliament. This is the result of riding roughshod over the mandate the people gave to this Government”, Professor Prasad said.

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

NFP Leader says NDP lying about sugar statistics

Mammoth losses

Annual Reports of the Fiji Sugar Corporation reveal mammoth losses by the FSC in the last two financial years making the Corporation technically insolvent, claims the National Federation Party.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says he has sighted the 2016 and 2017 Annual Reports, and the documents reinforce NFP’s long held position that this Government is still clueless on how to revive the sugar industry and return FSC to profitability.

“FSC’s 2016 Annual Report for the financial year ended May 31, 2015 shows an operating loss of $53.4 million, compared to $31.7 million loss for the previous financial year”.

“The 2017 Annual Report for the financial year ended May 31, 2016, shows an operating loss of $45 million”.

“The 2016 Report values FSC’s assets at $254 million while its total borrowing stood at about $380 million. The 2017 Report reduces the value of FSC’s assets to around $199.5 million while total borrowing increased to over $421 million”.

“This proves FSC is technically insolvent”.

Parliament has in the last two years approved a total of $322 million guarantee for an FSC credit facility with ANZ Bank.

Professor Prasad said guarantees and loans are necessary because sugar is an industry supports the livelihood of some 200,000 people.

“It is an exercise in futility to pump money into an organisation without knowing what happened to the previous injections of millions of dollars”.

“This is just sheer wasteful mismanagement of taxpayers’ funds”.

“Furthermore, nothing has been heard for a year about the supposed investigation of the operations of the FSC and that of the former Executive Chairman, following his resignation last October”.

The NFP Leader added that the FSC Board should be acutely aware of the new requirements of their accountability in accordance with the Companies Act.

The FSC’s Annual General Meeting will be held in Lautoka on Thursday November 23rd and Professor Prasad said it would “all be about rhetorical solutions and pie-in-the-sky theories”.

The NFP Leader said the only thing the FSC and Government continues to pin their hopes on is a flawed Strategic Plan.

“The Plan states that as a priority FSC will defer its loan repayments to better manage its cash flow, sell off its assets and for Government to take 100% control of the Corporation. And FSC wants the implementation of the reform of the Sugarcane Industry Bill that totally enslaves cane growers to both the Corporation and Government”.

“Government and FSC must understand that the largest and most important stakeholders in the industry are cane growers. Without growers, without cane, there will be no FSC. And there is nothing about growers or how to increase crop production”.

Professor Prasad said unless and until Fiji can produce 4 million tonnes of cane and manufacture 400,000 tonnes of sugar, the industry will not be viable and FSC will remain a burden to the taxpayers of Fiji.

“We must, as a matter of priority, provide incentives to growers to produce more cane. And the best way to do this is to provide them a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne of cane”, he said.

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Mammoth loss

Exiled.

  1.            2.

3.

A tru son of Fiji exiled from his land of birth by the Bainimarama regime in November 2009 and not allowed together with his wife Dr. Padma Lal to enter Fiji by the Fiji First government.

Our motions, questions and repeated attempts to lift the ban on Professor Brij and Dr Padma Lal were thrown out by Fiji First government.

Fiji Immigration has officially informed Professor Brij Lal that the order to ban him and his wife from entering Fiji has come from PM’s Office.

Picture 1: From left Hon. Professor Biman Prasad, Professor Brij Lal and Hon. Parmod Chand.

Picture 2: Hon.  Professor Prasad and Professor Lal sharing light moment with a bowl of Kava.

Picture 3: From Left Dr. Padma Lal, Hon Professor Biman Prasad and Professor Brij Lal.

 

 

 

Board appointments to statutory organisations.

Political cronyism and nepotism

The National Federation Party says it has evidence that the membership of Boards of statutory organisations as well as well as that of a few Independent Commissions are not merit based but political appointments, resulting in them becoming heavily politicised, causing interference in the operations of the organisations.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad made the comment after former Land Transport Authority Chief Executive Officer Carmine Piantedosi alleged that he was coerced into resigning by the LTA Board on 3rd November.

“We are really not surprised Mr Piantedosi’s statement that he did not resign for personal and family reasons as announced by the LTA Board Chairman because if he did, he would have informed the LTA staff well in advance of his departure”, Professor Prasad said.

“We have gathered reliable information that Mr Piantedosi was subject to allegations arising out of his actions and decisions. However, those allegations were not investigated and the Board itself became the judge, jury and the executioner”.

Professor Prasad said the right thing to do in any disciplinary process is not to terminate or coerce someone to quit a job but to tell him or her to step aside or go on leave to allow for an independent investigation of the allegations.

“We have seen three expatriates, including two permanent secretaries quit their jobs in the last 18 months. One lasted three months and Mr Piantedosi was on the job for less than 6 months”.

“Any government should be concerned about the sudden exodus of personnel that were hired and introduced to the people of Fiji as having vast experience and knowledge in their respective fields”.

“But the current government is conveniently silent and deliberately oblivious to what is happening because government and the respective cabinet ministers know that those who have left were forced out because the Board acted on the instructions of their political masters”.

“We have evidence that those appointed to the Boards are either strong Fiji First supporters, financiers or tasked by Fiji First to organise fundraising drives for the party”.

“We know that one member of the LTA Board organises fundraising drives for Fiji First. This is also true for a member of an Independent Commission who is also a member of other statutory Boards”.

“Therefore, most Boards and key appointments in statutory organisations and even in the civil service are not merit based but on political cronyism and nepotism”.

“If this is not so, then the Minister responsible for LTA should also demand the resignation of the LTA Board for failing to follow due process of fair hearing in the interest of justice in Mr Piantedosi’s case, and institute an independent investigation into the operations of LTA as well as of the Board”.

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=423367

Fiji needs a living wage

By Professor Biman Prasad

Leader of the National Federation Party

The government should not use scare-mongering tactics to defend its $2.68 per hour minimum wage. Fear tactics is what this government is good at – first as a military regime and then after it was elected in 2014.

Government Ministers Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Jone Usamate are trying to shoot down the National Federation Party’s vision for a $5 an hour living wage. We want Fiji’s poorest paid workers to see clearly when they too will be able to share in the economic growth that the government boasts it has achieved.

If you listen to what the people are saying, one of their biggest concerns is the cost of living.  Prices are rising beyond their incomes. So FRCS officials and the Commerce Commission around the country fining businesses and trying to control prices.  But of course costs will rise. Many of those costs are beyond Fiji’s control.

The problem is not that prices are rising. It is that incomes are NOT rising. There is no point having economic growth if it will only benefit the rich. But, by keeping the minimum wage at $2.68, even while prices are rising, that is what the Government has done.

The Government keeps saying that a $5 per hour living wage cannot be done and will cause massive unemployment. They say many employers and small businesses cannot afford to pay the $5 an hour. This is ironic, coming from a “control freak” government hell-bent on squeezing every last cent it can from businesses of all sizes in taxes, stamp duty and fines.

 

Why the need for a living wage

Fiji needs a decent and meaningful living wage more than ever before. A ‘living wage’ is the amount a worker needs to make ends meet if he or she works full time, based on the cost of living. The cost of living includes costs of food, housing, energy and transport, etc.

Experience elsewhere has shown that whenever a minimum living wage is suggested, conservative governments and business quickly use job losses and inflation as an excuse to reject it. But that is not what happens when those wages are implemented. In fact international evidence shows that there is hardly any link between the rise in minimum wages and employment growth or employment loss. The idea of a living wage is social. It is about reducing inequality. It is about looking after those who are at the mercy of their employers.

The opponents of a ‘living wage’ do not have a real economic argument to oppose it.  Business benefits from paying employees a living wage.  Better paid employees have better health, better morale, better productivity and greater loyalty to their employers. They have more money to spend on goods and services – and that is also good for business.

The NFP’s proposal for a $5 an hour living wage is a decent and well thought out proposal based on the cost of living now prevalent in Fiji. A $5 per hour minimum living wage will just be a catch-up on the rise in the cost of living rise over the last 10 years.

 

Misplaced views

Between 2006 and 2017 prices for food, heating and light have gone up by more than 65%.  Transport costs have gone up by a similar amount.   From 2006 the minimum wage did not increase much at all, until 2016, when it went from $2.32 to $2.68.  

So, for all the talk of economic growth, the burden of that growth has been carried by the poorest people.

The government’s claim of a social wage is also misplaced. Given the rise in the cost of food and other basic utilities, subsidies on water and electricity, free medicine and increase in social welfare allowance is just a very small and partial relief to a large majority of working population in this country.  Free education and free medicine policies have been beset by failures in any case.

The way in which the new minimum wage of $2.68 has been determined is flawed. It assumes that the subsidies that government provides to families are enough to compensate for low wages paid by employers.

You cannot have a minimum or living wage that is too low. If it is too low – as it is now – that just means that the government is using the law to keep costs low for businesses. We all know that the Bainimarama government reduced company taxes from 28% to 20%. That put much more profit in the hands of employers. Yet employers who make reasonable profits refuse to pay living wages. For example, we still have garment factories in Fiji which pay less than the national minimum wages. A garment factory worker in Nasinu who has worked for 18 years is on an hourly wage of $2.35.

There is clearly enough money to go around.  The government has repeatedly cut income tax in successive budgets and increased the tax-free thresholds.

But income tax cuts benefit the richest people the most. Poor people, including low-paid workers, earn below the tax threshold. They pay no tax. So tax cuts do not benefit them. They pay no tax to cut!

But the tax cuts in the last Budget meant that Cabinet Ministers will now receive an extra $6,000 in their bank accounts each year.  That is about the same as the entire annual salary of a minimum-waged worker.

 

We will do it 

The dignity and welfare of workers in Fiji can only be improved through the implementation of a decent minimum living wage. If elected to government the NFP will push for a $5 per hour minimum living wage. Our package will be well designed, implemented over time and carefully managed to look after the interests of every one including employers, particularly small businesses.  We understand the concerns about getting young people into the workforce and the special circumstances of domestic workers.  We will consult widely on these concerns.

Nor will we forget people who are self-employed – contractors, farmers and market vendors and small enterprise owners.  We will abolish the unnecessary rules and restrictions that stop them from achieving their full potential. We will actively support those with the courage and commitment to go into business for themselves.

The business community is already reeling under high cost of doing business as a result of government policies and laws. It should not fear the implementation of the minimum living wage.

  • Professor Biman Prasad is the Leader of the National Federation Party. The views expressed here are his own and not of this newspaper

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?ref=archive&id=421689

(This article was published in The Fiji Times on 28th October, 2017)