Remarks at 2018 Manifesto Launch Vunimono Community Hall, Nausori Thursday, November 1, 2018 By NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad

Welcome to the launch of our manifesto. I will try to be brief in my comments tonight. Because this is a document we want people to take away and read.

The manifesto has some of our ideas for government.  We had meetings with many people, all over Fiji, for many months. We listened to them. Our NFP candidates also listened and talked to the NFP leadership.

We received so many ideas. We could not put them all into this document. So these are the main plans we have for government.  But we have many more.

When the Prime Minister announced the election and launched his election campaign, he promised a campaign of ideas.

Then – nothing. No ideas. Nothing from Fiji First. Nothing except attacks on the opposition parties.   Fiji First is just reacting to what NFP has to say.

We talk about increasing the minimum wage. They say they will “study” it.  We talk about change. They say nothing needs to change.

We disagree.  We say – change is coming.

We are the party setting the agenda in this campaign. We have laid out clearly what we will do.  And because we have been in touch with people, we know what to do.

  • We will implement a $5 per hour minimum living wage
  • We will pay fair prices to our cane growers, including a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne of cane
  • We will make 15 food items VAT-free and reduce VAT on medicines, kerosene and a range of other critical products
  • We will change the face of university education
  • We will spend $200 million a year on housing
  • We will reform our health and education systems.

And tonight one behalf of Team NFP, I proudly announce the 15 basic food items that will be made VAT free or zero-rated. You must remember that 6 basic food items plus kerosene were VAT free, until  Fiji First in a gross betrayal of its 2014 election promise, re-imposed 9% VAT on them.

But do not worry.  We are addressing your greatest concern, which is the exorbitantly high cost of living. The 15 basic food items are: –

  1. Rice
  2. Flour
  3. Cooking Oil
  4. Tinned Fish
  5. Tea
  6. Powdered milk and liquid milk
  7. Butter
  8. Noodles
  9. Potatoes
  10. Onion
  11. Garlic
  12. Canned Tuna
  13. Locally Produced Eggs
  14. Bread
  15. Locally Produced Frozen Chicken

Additionally, NFP will make VAT FREE the following:

  1. Prescription medication
  2. Kerosene
  3. Women’s sanitary products
  4. Baby milk formula
  5. Diapers
  6. Toilet paper
  7. Soap
  8. Imported fruits

NFP will also REDUCE DUTY  on imported:

  • Lamb products
  • Ghee
  • School shoes
  • School bags

As well as

  • Reduce by 20% Excise Duty on locally produced Beer and Spirits

On the Social Welfare Pension, Ladies and Gentlemen, We will increase social welfare allowances for our poorest people, the sick and intellectually handicapped below the threshold of $30.000.  Social Welfare allowances for the ages will be increased as follows:

Age group                   Allowances

60 – 65 yrs                    $100 per month

65 – 70 yrs                    $200 per month

Over 70 yrs                  $300 per month

 

The benefits of a growing economy should be available to all and not just the rich getting richer.  Hardworking Fijians deserve to eat healthy and have the basic necessities of life.

These ideas have come from months of listening and consulting.  Because that is how every government should operate. .

Today’s Fiji Times carries a report with the headline “Wife shares daily struggles. Bimla Wati of Wailea Settlement in Vatuwaqa says and I quote, “Sometimes my husband and I have to fast so our son can eat because we don’t have any food”. This is because her husband earns only $70 a week as a grasscutter and has no formal employment.

Why has Fiji First said nothing? Because they do not yet know what their policies are. They are waiting for the Attorney-General to think up more gimmicks and more freebies.

So we do not really care what the Government says now.  They are yesterday’s story. We are tomorrow’s.  We have listened, and we have learned.  And we are ready to deliver.

Today Attar Singh and I had a meeting with the garment manufacturers who criticised our minimum wage policy. We had a good conversation. We have not agreed on everything – not yet. But we are talking to each other. We are working together. And that is exactly how we want it to be – with everybody.

We offer our plans for government to the people of Fiji with humility and a strong sense of purpose.  Fiji has had years of two-man rule, propped up by propaganda and handouts.

We want something different. We want a strong, proud, vibrant Fiji in which we are working together and expressing our views passionately on what we want. We want a smart Fiji where we are combining our talents for the common interest. We want a compassionate Fiji where we never lose sight of the most vulnerable people in our society and we are ready to support them.

This is how we want Fiji to change. And we say again – change is coming.

Ladies and gentlemen in a NORMAL democracy the convention and indeed the practice is that once an election is announced the outgoing government gives the country a STATE OF THE NATION report and fully discloses the government’s finances, revenue and expenditure performance, budget position, accumulated surpluses or deficits as the case may be.

But we know we are not in a normal democracy.  The hallmark of the Bainimarama government has been secrecy.  They have withheld or kept as closely guarded secrets the vital statistics and data which should be in the public domain.  Where they have disclosed the data has been obsolete and unreliable.

In these circumstances all opposition parties have to rely on our own estimates and projections for as we plan our policies.

We therefore ask that our Manifesto be read with that cautionary note.

Be that as it may, the majority of the policies outlined in our Manifesto and other policy statements are cost neutral and will be funded by budgetary realignments.

Ladies and gentlemen an NFP government will allocate over one billion dollars over the next four years on our package of policies and measures for reduction in the cost of living, improving public health care and education.

There will be no new taxes as the revenue reduction and additional expenditure will be funded from within the budget and from savings outlined in the manifesto especially in curtailing government extravagance and abuse, making the public service more efficient and further improving revenue collection.

Government’s capital expenditures will be reprioritised with an additional $200 million allocation to provide critical housing support to the most vulnerable in our society.

We will ensure there is greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

Ladies and gentlemen our Manifesto is about re-empowering our people with fundamental freedoms and the ability to live and work with dignity.

The combined effect of the policies and measures are targeted at achieving GDP growth rate above 4% a year over the next four years.  We will create at least 5000 new public sector jobs over the next four years.  And at least 10,000 in the private sector.

After four years of thoroughly scrutinising Government policies in Parliament, we can confidently say that this Government not, transparent, not accountable and is dictatorial.

Many, many, of our questions and Motions on national interest, transparency, accountability and good governance,  did not even reach the floor of Parliament after being rejected by the Business Committee determining the proceedings of parliament.

But that is history. Because a new dawn with clear blue skies and a night filled with glittering stars will start on 15th November.

Light will prevail over darkness, good will triumph over evil, unity will prevail over division.

Change is coming

Change is inevitable

Badlaao nischit hai

Ena yaco na veisau

God bless NFP

God bless Fiji