All Fijian families matter – screams the latest slogan on Fiji First billboards around the country. Obviously this was a prelude to how the Fiji First government wants the 2018-19 Budget handed down on Thursday 28th June to be remembered.
But once again, this is a promise that will turn into a misdeed given from what we have seen the Budget. It is full of second rate goodies that does little to cushion the pain and suffering of our people.
A pre-election bribe doomed to fail
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.
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.
While the Budget has some good initiatives like increased maternity leave, introducing paternity leave and a $1000 allowance for birth of a child, there is nothing to alleviate the cost of living that is 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 fruit and vegetables. But this is insignificant.
VAT remains on basic food items and prescription medication in a continuing betrayal of Fiji First’s 2014 promise to continue to zero-rate these items.
Ironically, the Fiji First Government has tried to copy some of our policies like a four lane highway between Nadi and Lautoka and a stabilization fund to ensure that cane growers receive $85 per tonne as price of cane. And this depends on Fiji Sugar Corporation selling its under-utilized assets.
This has come too little too late and is a desperate response to our solid and costed out plan to implement a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne.
On one hand, Government is applying cosmetic solutions that are seen or perceived to be pro-people, on the other it continues to provide exorbitant funding to entities like Fiji Broadcasting Corporation to the tune of over $11million.
This Budget has also allocated a total of $12.5million for the Executive residence of the PM and a new PM’s Office complex. This is totally unnecessary. This money could have been better spent on our people.
Wages have not increased. Disparity in salaries haven’t been fixed. And the minimum wage remains at a meagre $2.68 an hour.
Therefore, this Budget is full of hollow promises like an empty egg-shell.
A last-ditch effort
When it was announced in April 2016 that the financial year would be changed to August 1st to July 31st from January 1st to December 31st, we had pointed out that this was being done for the purposes of electioneering and not for a rehabilitation package in the aftermath of Severe TC Winston as Government claimed.
We believe this Budget is an attempt to bribe Fiji’s voters into voting the current Fiji First Government back into power during the general elections.
It is perfectly understandable why government has announced a budget full of goodies in its final year when it did nothing for the last three years.
This government is responsible for strangulating our people with high cost of living, a deteriorating public health and medical service, cosmetic road works, ruined our sugar industry, implementation of a meagre minimum wage on the face of approving for themselves an exorbitant salary and allowance scale, re-imposed VAT on basic food items and put our civil servants on contracted employment.
Now its coming out with policies and initiatives that it desperately hopes will convince voters into re-electing them.
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.
All Fijian families matter?
Why suddenly all Fijian families matter to Fiji First government is obvious because it is election year. But did all Fijian families matter after the 2014 elections since the start of parliamentary democracy?
Did all Fijian families matter to Fiji First when hundreds of TC Winston victims had to wait for months for hardware material despite cashing their e-cards at two major hardware outlets?
Did 50% of Koro Islanders matter when it was revealed early this year that they were waiting for two years for hardware material from a hardware company?
Did all Fijian families matter to Fiji First when the petition by cane growers of Ra for a new sugar mill in Penang was kicked out by the Prime Minister and his government who described it as a political stunt?
Did all Fijian families matter to Fiji First when all civil servants were placed on contracted employment and forced to retire at the age of 55 years?
There are many, many more broken promises of the Fiji First government. We will scrutinize in detail this budget and reveal to the people of Fiji its fallacies during the debate on the budget from July 9-13.