Tag Archives: Fiji Parliament

HON PROF. BIMAN PRASAD – 2019/2020 BUDGET REPLY

Debate on the 2019-2020 Budget
Tuesday June 18, 2019
By NFP Leader Honourable Professor Biman Prasad

Mr. Speaker Sir, after listening to the contributions from the government side, and also from the opposition side, I’ve actually decided to put aside my budget notes for two reasons;

One, I have to respond to some of the issues raised by the government side.

But, I want to congratulate the Opposition side in fact, the contributions from the opposition side on specific issues backed with data, backed with evidence has been exemplary and my work.  

Now, Honourable Speaker, I hope the interjections are also slow from the other side. But first Honourable Speaker, the Honourable Prime Minister yesterday grossly misrepresented my paper 2010 where I actually talked about the Global Financial Crisis and how government at that time needed to adopt an expansionary fiscal policy.

But Honourable Speaker, that does not mean that the government continues with an expansionary policy beyond economic instability and let alone, continuing it for nine years. But that’s history. That is exactly what I also said in 2014 and in fact, I would say to the Prime Minister – actually I’m happy that he reads my papers! If the government side reads my budget speeches over the last four years, they will actually find an alternative budget being proposed in those very carefully crafted responses about what the government should do and should not do.

And, if they had taken that advice 5 years ago, we would not be in a situation that we are in right now. In fact Honourable Speaker, the government since two thousand and—they’ve won the election in two thousand fourteen that was the best time for them to consolidate the finances but they carried on in their campaign mode until two thousand eighteen.  You know spending money with –like l blindfolds and we are now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Second Honourable Speaker, last night the Honourable government whip, Honourable Alvick Maharaj—quite despicably should I say attacked the opposition for supposedly making racist comments.

Especially in relation to cane growers and camouflaging it as cane growers of all ethnicities—and in fact, he took a swipe at NFP when he ignored that the President of the National Federation Party actually said that he disagreed with the comments that might have been implied by Honourable Kuridrani—and he goes to attack (inaudible due to interjections)

Honourable Speaker: Order, Order, Ord…

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: –and then, Honourable Maharaj then takes a swipe Honourable Bulanauca basically accusing him of distorting names and not calling the Prime Minister and Honourable Attorney General, “Honourable”.

Yet, he himself coined a shorter version of the name of the Leader of the Opposition and two other opposition M.Ps. It’s like a case of, “Pot calling the Kettle black”. I mean what Honourable Maharaj has –was uttering last night, Mr. Speaker is nothing new.

It’s a racial venom which was successfully used by the Fijifirst Party in the last election, in the last election!   You know if you look at the advertisements in the on.–(Inaudible…) racist advertisement, “a vote for Biman is a vote for Rabuka”—vote for SODELPA.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: –you know they even created, Honourable Speaker, they even created fake news! Saying that Rabuka, Honourable Rabuka will take away the Diwali Holiday.

I mean these are the kind of lies and racial venom that many of them—I know some of them were going to temples and especially Indo-Fijian audiences and saying; “Areh you know you’ll be finished if Rabuka comes in and Biman supports him!” This is the kind of racist comments that they were trying to spew and create fear! 

Honourable Speaker: Order!

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: So, you know that the reality is, Honourable Speaker that the President was rightly made it very clear. That we do not support that kind of view on cane growers. But, Honourable Maharaj as many others on the other side you know get stuck to the script they are given. And continue attacking us unnecessarily. So in fact Honourable Maharaj should ask the Attorney General what they were doing in level nine.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: and I was kind of wondering Honourable speaker that whether he was—he got the low hanging fruits or he got the venomous fruit which he’s spewing now.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: anyway Honourable Speaker, let me get to the budget. But before that, let me say this again, you know I’ve sad this before; That this is a government—not every one of them, in fact there are many of them Honourable Speaker this side; they privately tell you how dismayed they are, how nobody is consulting them—how they are given speeches to read…

But, obviously you know we have created—you know this is a party which is suffering from a culture of sycophancy and servility. You know we don’t need advice from sycophants I think, you know? But, let me say this; you know this is a government which is suffering from cognitive dissonance. You know it’s a disease where you begin to believe everything that you do—even if the reality is staring at your face, you don’t believe it.

And when somebody shows you the reality, you get very angry, you attack them, you personalize them, you say you know, “this guy is not fit” – this is what they do. But, let me come back to the budget Honourable Speaker.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: We remembered the two thousand and eighteen budget as the one where government ran out of ideas. But we will remember definitely the two thousand nineteen, twenty budget as the one where government has run out of money.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: Listening to the budget speech, Honourable Speaker, I really felt sorry for the Honourable Economy Minister.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: He looked like a man who didn’t want to be in the house that day, and he looked like a man who didn’t want to talk about the budget. So he did talk about the opposition, he talked

about the National Bank of Fiji, he talked about school gardening competition, he talked about how children jump on milk cartons. But, he did not talk why the government has no money. Not once did he say to the people of Fiji what he should be saying on behalf of the government and on behalf of the Prime Minister, “Sorry!. I’m sorry that after years of spending your money to get your votes, there’s no money left.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: I’m sorry that in this financial year, my tax collections fell one billion dollars short. I’m sorry that because Fiji is now so far in debt I must now cut spending on education, health and basic services.

I’m sorry to the tourism industry! I’m sorry that even though they compose a large part of the whole economy, our taxes are damaging the economy—but I cannot afford to reduce the taxes. I’m sorry to the lowest paid workers that we promised that we will review the minimum wages and now we’re taking more time and more time.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: Honourable Speaker, the Honourable Minister blames the people, he blames the students who wanted to study away from their home towns. He accused parents for free riding on buses using the children’s student card.

He blamed the children cashing the parent’s welfare checks. Why is he blaming the people? Why is he blaming the people? Because he needs an excuse to cut the government’s spending. He says to the people. “It’s not my fault. It’s your fault!”

This is what this government is about. When things are good, it’s always about what they did. But, when things are bad, it is always about somebody else’s fault. I also heard the Prime Minister, I also heard some of the Ministers talk about how we’re doing this because there is a, “slow-down in the global economy” I don’t know Honourable Speaker where do they get that. 

Of course the IMF says there might be a slow-down but, let me just give you an example; this an Economist magazine—latest issue. It says, “The greatest job boom”. It says, “in 2018 the employment raised among people of working age was the highest ever in Britain, Canada, Germany, Australia and twenty-two other OECD countries.” You know, this is the kind of lies and misinformation that they want to spread to cover up for the mismanagement of the economy for the last ten or twelve years.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: it states; I’ll read you this, “Across the rich world, an extraordinary jobs boom is under way” this is May this year, “Across the rich world, an extraordinary jobs boom is under way”. But, anyway Honourable Speaker, I said in the last budget that the government was, “spending money like drunks in a nightclub” and I remember one person in the social media who criticized my statement and this is what he said Mr. Speaker—he said,

“You are being unfair to drunks. At least drunks spend their own money” –and he’s right! Because the (inaudible…) the people’s money to keep themselves in power. They have brought themselves into power by using the people’s money for their propaganda and using the people’s money to hand out freebies to them. Mr. Speaker, like every confidence trick, when you borrow and spend, and take photographs opening roads and bridges, and handing out SME grants –things look great for a while, but look where we are now.

This year, the money has run out! Let me give you an example. Let me give you –this is from their own Fiscal Supplement: One Billion dollars reduction in expenditure. Honourable Speaker, One billion dollars! This is not a small adjustment. But, last year this government projected that they will collect 4.2 billion dollars revenue. They actually collected 3.2 billion –this is an estimate. This year, they are projecting that they are going to collect 3.4 billion dollars revenue.

Yet, you’ve reduced expenditure by a billion dollars. In fact, last year the economy was growing because there was all this reckless spending going on in the economy. And now, they’re saying that we will collect more revenue from what they collected last year. They’re reducing the economy, they are contracting the economy, and they are hoping that they will collect instead of $3.2 billion  they’ll collect $3.4 billion dollars revenue.

That is why Honourable Speaker, this budget has so many holes. In fact, the Ministers on the other side. I mean I, feel sorry for them because they all talked about what they will going to do with the budget allocation if you go by what they collected with the growth in the economy last year, last financial year then what are they going to collect?

There is no way Honourable Speaker that they can collect 3.4 billion dollars revenue that is projected. So what, will be the effect? What will be the effect? The effect will be that the economy will contract further and further. Honourable Speaker, the –one of the funnier parts of the Honourable Minister’s speech was about the National Bank of Fiji. Yes! It was a disaster.

They sold the telecommunications network. Twenty three years after that we are in the same situation. We don’t have the telecommunications network but the debt level that this government has put upon itself; now they might be selling the electricity network. That is the reality. And what they have been doing is setting up the stage to actually sell FEA. I know they tried to sell FEA. There are number of people you know wanting to –they were on the list of people who were interested on buying FEA. None of them bought FEA. So now, the Minister is engaged in raising the tariff he’s already said that the tariff will be increased when the consultations are—

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: You were quoted! You said that.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: Honourable Speaker. Let me –before I conclude Honourable Speaker, let me say something about the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service. If you go to its website Mr. Speaker, you will see that its vision is to be a world class revenue service. Instead, as the government runs out of money, it has become more like a world class Mafia organization.

Hundreds of businesses large and small are being harassed. If there’s one small mistake, FRCS demands a $50,000 fine. FRCS auditors are running around issuing ridiculous tax assessments.  They’re doing it all in a rush because they have to find money for the government. They are not listening to taxpayer’s explanations Mr. Speaker. Government bureaucracy is not the only threat to foreign investment, FRCS is a major problem. In most well-run economies the tax agency is a trusted regulator. People may not like paying taxes but they respect the agency in Fiji, the FRCS gets more and desperate to collect money. It has lost the respect of the business community, it has become one more disaster on Fiji’s investment horizon.

Honourable Speaker, it is time to stop pretending that this government has created a sustainable economy. This is not a successful economy, Mr. Speaker. This is not a strong economy. It is a mediocre economy fueled by debt and hopelessly distorted by regulation and worst to come—and even though the facts are staring at the government in the face, the government refuses to acknowledge it. It refuses to warn the people that hard times are ahead—it has no solutions. It is happy to cut spending now because it does not have to worry about an election.

Mr. Speaker, this government is loud and boastful when things are going well. But when things are beginning to go bad, it does not want to talk about it. That shows only this government’s lack of courage and its lack of care for the poorest in our society who in the coming year will be the hardest hit.

Mr. Speaker, no one rejoices in warning that tough economic times lie ahead. But the next two years, are going to be extremely difficult for our people. We are about to find out what happens when the government’s political spending party is over. When economic confidence is gone, the government has no solutions. And it does not have the courage to talk about the problems.

Honourable Speaker, this is truly a government that has lost the moral authority to lead us. And this is what the people are about to find. Honourable Speaker, confidence in an economy is very important, very important. Confidence in an economy important. What people didn’t do today or what people expect to happen in the future, determines what people do today. This government does not like the truth.

In fact, you will inspire confidence Honourable Speaker, by telling the truth about the economy. By telling honestly what the problems have been in the economy. If you keep on hiding, the people are not as stupid as the government might think. The business people out there understand what’s happening in the economy. The bank managers know what’s happening in the economy.

These are the people are listening to us here and they have a government which is continuously trying to paint a rosy picture when the reality on the ground is something very different. And that is not going to inspire confidence in our investors in our people Honourable Speaker and that is why I’m saying we need to be truthful.

In fact Honourable Prakash was right when he concluded, we need the truth about the economy. We need transparent, accountable processes through which we can hold the government accountable—and this is what the people want.

People are listening to the speeches from the government side and they’re out there looking the businesses. Looking at what FRCS does, looking at the regulations, looking at difficulty in getting a business license. And they’re saying; what? What is this government all about? That is the point I want to make Honourable Speaker. Thank you.

-END-

HON PIO TIKODUADUA – 2019/2020 BUDGET REPLY

Reply to the 2019-2020 Budget
Monday, June 17, 2019
By NFP President & Parliamentary Whip Hon Pio Tikoduadua

Mr Speaker Sir, I am reminded of four words used by the Honourable Minister for Economy in Parliament, while either presenting National Budgets or in his right of reply after debate in this august chamber, both during the last term as well as the current term of Parliament.

The four words are:  – intellectual rigour and social amnesia.


They remind me of Cyndy Lauper’s famous hit:“Time after Time” from the 80s.

The  second line in verse 1 is, and I quote, but shall not sing:

“Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new”.

Again Mr Speaker – “Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new”.

This is what this “Boom for Whom? Budget” is all about.

It is about being caught up in circles. It is about confusion. And tragically, it is about NOTHING NEW — just a rehash of the old and a vain attempt to muddy the water with high-tech convolution that will not feed hungry mouths..

Mr Speaker, allow me to quote from Hansard, the Honourable Minister  for Economy’s concluding remarks from his right of reply on 11th July 2017 to the 2017-18 Budget where he said: “The Fijian economy is forecasted to grow for eight consecutive years, and this Budget is expected to further boost business confidence, increase investments and provide the right impetus for higher growth, more inclusive and sustainable, more jobs for our people and our younger people and higher incomes. But the Opposition, unfortunately, is incomplete denial”. – Unquote

In July 2017, the Honourable Minister said the Opposition was in denial. Maybe, he meant the Opposition will be annihilated when it came to voting because Government dominated Parliament.

Mr Speaker, But almost two years later Government is up against a brick wall – both in terms of parliamentary opposition – as well as the clear evasion of ideas, excelling only in successfully confusing  taxpayers with pie-in-the-sky theories.

Quite simply, this Budget is not about boosting business confidence, increasing investments and providing the right impetus for higher growth. It is not about more inclusive and sustainable jobs for our people and our younger people and higher incomes.

This Budget will not reduce the cost of living. This Budget doesn’t provide incentives to increase wages and salaries based on Cost Of Living Adjustment, of ordinary workers as well as civil servants to sustain rising prices of all goods and services.

This Budget will not provide a decent and meaningful increase to the minimum wage to make it a living wage. This Budget is all about  replicating the status-quo of our sugar industry, which has suffered a 50% downturn in the last 12 years under the Bainimarama Boom.

And this Budget is also slowly but surely killing the goose that is laying golden egg – our tourism industry – by continuing to impose 25% taxes that is outpricing the industry compared to lucrative Asian destinations like Bali.

Mr Speaker, essentially this Budget  presents the question: A Boom for Whom? 

A picture relays a thousand words. At Fiji’s largest medical facility, the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, a wooden block is used as a stopper to prevent someone from locking him or herself in the washroom.

And most shamefully, an IV or intravenous tube is used as a lock to tie the door for what little privacy that any user can get.

This picture is emblematic of thethe sad state of our hospitals, roads and even schools.

It epitomizes the high falluting values of common and equal citizenry, now simply reduced it to a door that is hurriedly cobbled together with an IV tubeI now want to dwell on this most important issue in anyone’s life and critically important element in any government’s delivery of smart and efficient health care.

Mr Speaker, I have raised this matter twice before in this august Chamber. I have seen this broken door in the Acute Men’s Medical Ward at Colonial War Memorial Hospital since February 2018 when I was hospitalized. At that time it was only broken. More than 16 months later, instead of being repaired the door has further disintegrated. That door tragically heralds our gradual immersion into third world country staus.

Then Mr Speaker, there is this picture of broken and missing ceiling above the storage area of patients’ records.

Something is seriously wrong. If the Government cannot even fix a broken door or replace a missing ceiling in the largest medical facility in the country, how on God’s green earth can it fix an economy and improve the livelihoods of all our people?

How can it ensure that the rights and fundamental freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights of the 2013 Constitution are upheld at all times? Because from what we see, this Government is spiraling more towards the Limitations in the Bill of Rights, rather than actually upholding these rights

Mr Speaker Section 38 (1) of the 2013 Constitution (Right to health) states, “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to health and to the conditions and facilities necessary to good health care services…”

38(3) states “…if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that resources are not available”.

Mr Speaker, the State cannot claim not to have resources to fix the door of the lone washroom used by patients in the Acute Medical Ward that has remained broken for the last 16 months!

The State has the resources to provide $10 million to host the ADB Conference. This Government has millions of dollars to lease top of the range vehicles from Vision Motors. This Government has the resources to pay the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers salaries, perks and privileges that are thoroughly over-proportionate to the size of the national economy.

Yet, Mr Speaker, this Government cannot to pay a decent living national wage to our workers, cannot fix a washroom door that forces  patients having shower, to simultaneously hold on to an IV tube that prevents somebody else from barging in!

Can you imagine? Well that is probably a rhetorical question as the Government side DO NOT HAVE TO imagine it because it is very likely that they enjoy healthcare treatment overseas. But in that moment, an individual in a high state of vulnerability trying to heal from an illness, cannot even be guaranteed safety and dignity in that washroom — all because of a door, or lack thereof.

It would be helpful if the relevant Minister could address some other observations of mine under his mandate:

  1. Is the cafeteria area at CWM being used as a make-shift ward for patients because other spaces including corridors are over-crowded with beds?
  2. Why is the outpatients department at the children’s ward closed?
  3. Why are cancer support to groups like WOWS (Walk On Walk Strong) Kids Fiji (WKF) a non-profit Charity Foundation for children with cancer in Fiji not being allocated funds to do the precious job that they do to support parents and families and the children suffering from cancer — the numbers of which are rising too!
  4. Why has the Kidney Dialysis Treatment Subsidy been culled from $3.5M last year to a mere $200,000 this year — who from the Ministry will play God and decide who lives or dies from going without dialysis because of such a shameful allocation? Is it the Minister? Or will it be the Messiah?
  5. What measures were taken to ensure the recent boiler fire did not spread to the fuel pump and oxygen line in close proximity?
  6. Is the Ministry re-evaluating the safety requirements to ensure such an incident in future doesn’t result in catastrophic consequences?
  7. Is it true that medical students and those doing post-graduate medicine studies arenot allowed to enhance their learning with doctors on duty during normal hours – as has been the practice for decades?
  8. Is HIV/AIDs medication stock in full supply now especially for those needing “second line” medication?
  9. Why are our dearly departed not being honoured in the mortuary and in many instances bodies lined up on the floor, creating doubly distressing situations for grieving families?

Mr Speaker, the public private partnership of the new Ba Hospital was hailed as a success by the Honourable Minister for Economy. But his statement early this year that the new hospital will start operations in June or July 2019, is one of the many instances of being “economical with the truth” — quite akin to his budget.

The hospital, we know, is going to be managed by Aspen that has partnered FNPF, albeit with 20% shares in the company created to manage Lautoka and Ba hospitals.

But we are reliably told that the Aspen has revealed that the hospital will not open in 2019. It will start operations in 2020 and there is no guarantee which part of 2020 that will be. We are also told that Aspen will not carry out additional works at the hospital despite it costing $30m to build and being labelled as a state or the art facility.

We further understand that Aspen could bill government to pay their costs of being a healthcare provider. And there are indications the the PPP hospital will not provide specialized surgeries as claimed.

The budget estimates show that the Health Budget has been reduced by $34.5 million compared to the last financial year, despite moving the salaries of Doctors from the Ministry of Civil Service allocation across this year.  As with all things, while the door analogy frames the reality of the optics, the NUMBERS proof is in the pudding of the hyped up narrative. The Estimates show the deeply dire picture that the public health services allocation for staffing has been slashed from $3.095 Million to about $370,000. While the divisional allocations for staffing have also had major cuts, all in the millions.

The Minister for Economy’s pre-emptive rationalisation in the media that civil servants will have to multi-task and that cuts were due to HR people padding the figures do not cut it There will be job losses across the board — the numbers do not lie.

That, however will the cross of the Minister for Health to bear. He has to defend his allocation. He will have to face distressed, anguished and maybe angry staff and taxpayers who will expect more than a door when clearly there are no funds for it. This the reality of what the REAL ECONOMISTS mean when they say “reduced expenditure”. The ability of the Government to spend money to provide for services that people expect, is simply not there.

Mr Speaker, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Budget has been reduced by $7.3 million.

I note that the staffing provisions in the RFMF have also taken cuts except the naval and hydrography divisions. Understandably so because,  of the acquisition of RFNS Volasiga and RFNS Savenace and the hydrography vessel from China, RFNS Kacau. The disconnect however, is that the fuel and oil allocations for both activities do not match these acquisitions. Are we to expect from story of these numbers that while the naval and hydrography vessels will be fully manned, it will not actually do much out there on the water because it is crippled by lack of fuel?

The RFMF Commander publicly stated that buildings which housed RFMF operations were very old and needed replacing. He said this would be put on hold and hopefully they will be allocated resources when the economy is well again next year.

Mr. Speaker, the RFMF Commander’s statement implied that the economy is not doing well and that is why their Budget has been reduced.

This government decided to entrench RFMF’s role as the ultimate guarantor of national security of all Fijians under Section 131(2) of the 2013 Constitution. All ordinary Fijians should now ask whether RFMF is capable of guaranteeing their peace and security after trimming itsbudget.

Mr Speaker, I recall that less than 10 days before the general elections in November last year, the Honourable Prime Minister was asked on FBC Radio Fiji One talkback show Na Cava na GDP – What is GDP? He replied -GDP na Dinau – GDP is debt.

Mr Speaker, the Honourable PM must be commended for being forthright. He was absolutely right in saying GDP na Dinau because year in and year out, GDP has been inflated to borrow heavily  and to show that debt level is less than 50% to GDP and declining.

But we know from this Budget that this has been a cooking exercise – no doubt perfected by 48 hours of Level Nine-ing at Suvavou House last December to discuss strategies like low hanging fruits – according to the Honourable Attorney General.

All this has happened and is happening under the much touted Bainimarama Boom by the Honorable Minister for Economy while the Honourable Prime Minister told FBC news it was Boom, Boom, Boom!. Maybe he meant Kaboom because that  is exactly what it is!

All happening under the leadership of the Honourable PM and his right-hand man the Honourable Attorney General who told the electorate last October that not voting for Honourable PM Bainimarama would mean putting a dagger to their necks.

It appears the dagger is slashing everybody’s wallets except those of the Ministers, who freely help themselves to taxes but fail to follow through in its basic obligations of government services.

But the honourable Attorney General and his leader still think they are the chosen ones on the face of an economy staggering towards a steep decline.

My way or the highway, playing the blame game has been the hallmark  of this Government for over 12 years.

But the smokescreen has disappeared. The state of our nation and the current patch-work government, and doors hanging by IV tubes are all to visible to all.

This Budget must not further oppress and enslave the people of Fiji and I oppose the 2019-2020 Appropriation Bill.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

-END-

HON LENORA QEREQERETABUA – 2019/2020 BUDGET REPLY

Reply to the 2019-2020 Budget
Monday, June 17, 2019
By NFP MP Hon Lenora Qereqeretabua

Mr Speaker, I’d like to borrow and paraphrase the slogan of the taxpayer funded Fiji Broadcasting Commission or FBC TV, “the difference is clear”. Because CLEARLY this budget time around there is NO DIFFERENCE. The Fiji First Government, is fresh out of ideas, and has SEGA/NAHI sound and sensible solutions for the social, economic and political advancement of our nation. The only thing they are consistent on, is inconsistencies!

Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, the 2019-2020 Budget handed down on Friday 7th June 2019 by the Honourable Minister for Economy confirms this Government is losing ground on the necessary ideas that can bring forth real leadership and practical economic growth that Fiji sorely needs to achieve national unity, nation building and true nationhood.

Mr Speaker, I’d like to address some fundamental issues related to the Budget. It is to do with basic courtesy and just good manners. If I were to kerekere  the Hon Minister for Economy for $20 in order to buy washing powder like this BOOM product, you can expect that during my kerekere I would be VERY polite and humble, and that upon purchase of the washing powder, I owed it to him to show proof of purchase. Otherwise he would label me as a liar and a con artist, right?

What I have seen thus far is deeply disappointing. Many government institutions, statutory entities and private organisations that fall under the various Ministry’s are so quick to put in their budgetary submissions, talk or project themselves up when its budget time, but they do not reciprocate or honour the taxpayers or even the laws that mandate their accountability — and table their Annual Reports. This is as clear a signal as any, of unprofessional incompetence, and I fully intend to ensure this is corrected — that those… even those hiding in the Head 50 getting grants who are so quick to inhale public funds from many people earning as little as $2.68/hour — you must account for every cent in the highest court of the land. This House. The People’s House.

Mr Speaker, the National Federation Party subscribes to  principles that will correct economic imbalance so that economic growth benefits all instead of a Government’s legislative control of the economy. So what transpired in the period of the so-called unprecedented economic growth of 10 straight years, leading up to this Bainimarama Boom Budget or Boom, Boom, Boom! budget as stated by the PM himself? For all intents and purposes, this budget is a noose around the neck of all ordinary Fijians and will ensure shackled hardship for our people under the skyrocketing cost of living.

We were not the party  in control of the Treasury making unilateral decisions on how to spend taxpayer funds.

We were NOT the Party that had a whopping 14 seat majority in Parliament and rode roughshod in parliament for four years over the mandate of the people in the September 2014 elections.

We were NOT the Party that did not practice political decorum where elections are about a battle of  ideas in the lead-up to the 2018 general elections, choosing instead to spend millions of dollars in an advertising campaign that evoked disunity,overflowed with racial bigotry and fake news.

We were NOT the Party that indulged in a campaign of fear-mongering, freebies and handouts.

We were NOT the Party that had its 14 seat parliamentary majority whittled down to just 3 because 49.98% of voters defied the Honourable Economy Minister’s threat that not voting for Honourable Prime Minister Bainimarama would mean putting a dagger to the neck.

Mr Speaker, this Budget is the product of a two-men rule – a Budget that is desperately trying to claw in every source of legal revenue for government’s frivolous expenditure, while knowingly ignoring the fundamental issues facing all ordinary Fijians. The alarming hike in the cost of living has resulted in some meat outlets selling lamb flaps which was outlawed many years ago!

The miserable minimum wage of $2.68/hr;  the never-ending civil service reforms;
the gutting of a once vibrant tourism industry’s  by exorbitant taxes;
a crumbling health and medical care system;
the patchwork of huge craters on the road network that is further forcing motorists to frequent spare part shops and depleting their incomes;
a sugar industry that is failing right under the noses of this government, and the list goes on and on and on…

This is the ‘Boom for Whom?‘ Budget. Because there is but a small elite really benefitting from it. There is no Boom! Only a KABOOM. It is a budget aimed at strangulating our ordinary Fijians. It is an attempt to salvage the pride of two men, who in adherence to the Fiji First Constitution, have imposed their will upon all our people. But the time to be silent is over.

So how have we come to this KABOOM  Budget Mr Speaker? 

In his maiden speech on 14th October 2014, the Leader of NFP, Honourable Professor Biman Prasad said and I quote: –

“We have two obligations at the core of our role as MP’s. First, we have to make our democracy work; and second, we have to make our democracy work for our people”. 

“What do I mean by that?” “To make our democracy work; we need to ensure that our citizens and their organizations are able to freely comment, support and when needed criticize policies and programs being debated by this House. They need to know that our media will amplify their voices and ensure that their voices are directly heard by us. This way we will know how citizens feel about and experience government policies and programs. Our democracy will grow from this new openness”.

“Second, we need to make our democracy work for our people”. –

“When necessary we will criticize government’s policies. When we shall do so, it will not be for the sake of doing so, but because we in our considered view are able to provide credible alternatives”. – Unquote

Mr Speaker, Sir… the proposed budget brings to mind a few commonly used phrases – a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget  being one of them.  The NFP warned last year when Fiji First was traipsing around the country handing out freebies that NOTHING WAS FREE and that all of us would end up paying sooner rather than later.

More than a decade of excessive spending is bringing the chickens home to roost, resulting is this Fiscal Consolidation, which is just economic speak for the reduction of expenditure.

So I ask again, this Boom is for whom?

At the start of first term this year, the Hon PM said “And I’ve always believed that funding our children’s education is the single best investment a Government can make.   That is why I am proud that this year is a billion- dollar year for our education system, as our last national budget saw education become the first sector to ever receive an over one-billion dollar allocation.  (Fiji Sun 13th Jan, 2019)

BOOM! Not 6 months later and there is a budget cut of $200 Million to this “single best investment that a Government can make.”

Here are some stark realities teachers now face;

  • The possibility of Less Pay or suddenly turning 55. The Budget Estimates already suggest that trend in the personal emoluments allocations ACROSS ALL HEADS.
  • Larger Classes – this is an existing problem and will only get worse.  With budget cuts come larger classes. Research has shown that students learn better in smaller classes. When there is overcrowding there is a greater likelihood of disruptions. Further, it is much easier for students to fall through the cracks in larger schools and not get the extra help they need and deserve to succeed. 
  • Less to Spend on Materials – More and more of this is going to be either provided by the teachers and their students.
  • Less School-Wide Material and Technology Purchases – With less money, schools often cut their school-wide technology and material budgets.
  • Delays for New Textbooks – In its haste to jump on the IT bandwagon, the free textbooks are not FREE. Yes, schools now print out textbooks that students use in the classrooms, but very often they are either shared in the classroom and often cannot take them home to study from. Students preferring their own home copies of textbooks will need to fork out internet and printing costs themselves. Now with the limitations of free busfare only up until 4:30pm, home copies of textbooks may probably be necessary for all students..
  • Less Professional Development Opportunities – Teaching just like any profession, becomes stagnant without continual self-improvement. The field of education is changing and new theories and teaching methods can make all the difference in the world for new, struggling, and even experienced teachers. However, with budget cuts, these activities are typically some of the first to go.
  • Less Electives – Schools facing budget cuts typically begin by cutting their electives and either moving teachers to core subjects or eliminating their positions entirely. Students are given less choice and teachers are either moved around or stuck teaching subjects they are not ready to teach.
  • Possibility of a Forced Move or School Closures like what happened with Laucala Bay Secondary School

The honourable calling of teaching has been reduced to being one of the most stressful jobs in the country.

If they dispute that Mr Speaker I challenge them to issue a statement and give our teachers peace of mind.

Blaming children for the cancellation of the free milk scheme is juvenile but by now symptomatic of this govt that is out of options.  Why are children being blamed, when adults like the Hon Minister for Economy tabled that policy with much fanfare in the 2015 Budget that claimed to “TURN PROMISES INTO DEEDS” .Again the Estimates point out just how real this situation is where previous allocations of $3.1M from 2015 to 2018, have suddenly nose-dived to $400K for those in maritime regions.

Preventing children from using the Student E-Ticketing Bus Cards after 4.30pm is another knee-jerk reaction we expect from a govt that is out of options.  The justification made sounds as if the problem is so prevalent. Why did taxpayers only hear about these issues of parents using their children’s cards on budget night? Surely Vodafone as service provider for eTicketing would have been able to track the trends more wholistically? Why can’t this august House be privy to those reports and statistics so that we can be assured that such a major policy shift is warranted.. The eTicketing was a shoddy idea and is still limping from execution issues — and we don’t even know how much money is involved from past taxpayers injections and the benefit to government revenue. Vodafone must table a report in this house!

Blaming past governments and using Legacy problems is the old and worn out crutch some in the govt side continue to use to cover up the Fiji First Govt’s failings….. BUT what will their legacy be? 

Loans? Debt? With a 40 year repayment time…at the end of 40 years the architects and signatories of the debts post 2005 will be long gone, but the debt will still be there for the children and young adults of today and their families to pay.

If there are going to be pay cuts and job losses, my suggestion is that the very people who allowed this champagne lifestyle to carry on, whilst operating on beer money, should be the first ones to experience pay cuts and job losses.  Our economy is in the ICU because of the irresponsibility of the Bainimarama Govt.  Why should the most vulnerable children, women and men suffer because of the bad financial management of our money? Why should everyday families suffer while a few continue to benefit?

Mr. Speaker, let me just ask the house –

  • Who was the P.M when the 100 sands casino Blunder happened?
  • Who was the P.M when Waila City happened?
  • Who was the P.M when drugs entering Fiji are at an all-time high?
  • Who was the P.M that endorsed a mobile App that actually defies the laws of physics?
  • Who was the P.M when the Malolo saga unfolded?

For all the talk about Environment, you slash the Department of Environment’s budget!

How can we trust a govt that says one thing and does another?  The Malolo fiasco will not be allowed to be swept under the carpet and we will get to the truth.

How can we trust a govt that believes it knows everything?  Pride cometh before the fall.  The Hon Min for Economy said one word that made me sit up and take notice for once…the word was Humility.  This govt must practice what it preaches……..Humility; accept it stuffed up and that the ordinary families of Fiji, not theirs, are going to pay.

It is time that just like the Dutch band Vengaboys who delivered the late 1990’s hit Boom Boom Boom, this government goes into a hiatus.

And that is why I say an emphatic NO to the 2019-2020 Appropriation Bill.

-END-

A fearful government

APRIL 17TH 2019

The frightened and paranoid government of Fiji is now threatening school teachers who might take part in a protest action for better working conditions – even in the school holidays. 

The 12 April 2019 internal memorandum from the Permanent Secretary of Education is an unbelievable document. 

First, she claims that a proposed Fiji Trades Union Congress protest action would be “in contravention of the laws of Fiji”. This is ridiculous. Protest actions can take many forms and many of them are clearly within the laws.

Then she claims that any “incitement or encouragement” of others to take part in protest action would be unlawful.  This is as nonsensical as the statement above. 

On 3 May teachers will be on holiday. The Ministry has no right to tell them where they should be. But the Ministry seems very anxious to tell them where they should not be!

This is a  government that is clearly trying to instil a culture of fear and suppression to mask its own fear of being exposed as a dictatorial administration cloaked in its version of pseudo-democracy.

The Government is afraid that worker protests will unmask its pretence, during the big Asian Development Bank conference it is hosting in the first week of May, that Fiji is a united country with a population that supports the government.

The trade union movement and its leadership should get more emboldened and fight such threats being dished out by a stuttering administration trying to divert attention from the fundamental ills plaguing the nation.

They can run from the people for a little while. But they cannot hide.

Authorised by

Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad

Leader – National Federation Party