“While some media have referred to the national budget announced last Friday night by the Minister for the Economy as a road to recovery or a map of the way ahead, I see the national budget as the road to nowhere”, says Unity Fiji Party leader Savenaca Narube.
Also the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, Narube adds that for many of us that were expecting something weighty, clear and significant, I am sure we all came away very disillusioned and disappointed.
“The long and flowery language did not allay our fears and uncertainty of the future. Those that have lost their incomes only saw more depletion of their retirement funds. The unemployed did not see any help for them. The self-employed who are not members of the FNPF now realise that they have to fend for themselves. This is tragic.
“Like all of the Government’s past budgets, this one is again for the rich. When government revenue is already shrinking by a whopping 70 percent, the Minister now decides to borrow and give to the rich through cutting taxes on luxury items, lowering fringe benefit taxes and increasing other tax allowances which only the rich will benefit from. The Minister has decided to subsidize alcohol, reduce duties on vehicles and remove the minimum age of used vehicles”, Narube said.
“Are buying vehicles to clog our already congested roads, getting drunk to drown the social impact of the crisis, and living beyond our means through hire purchases of white goods, priorities for us? This is unbelievable.”
Narube says that this crisis is about money.
The solution is to give back part of the income to those that have lost money. In this budget, only 5% of the tax-payers money is allocated to the people who have lost incomes. The rest goes to businesses. This is most insensitive.
“Government is groping in the dark. The Minister repeated that the economic hole is 22% deeper this year. He was silent about next year. He was silent on how we will restore fiscal stability in the medium term. How much impact will this budget have on the economy? In my view, very little.
“The budget is focused on tourism whose recovery is not in our control. Like the COVID budget, the Minister is pro-business arguing that businesses will provide jobs. I wish to remind us again that the crisis is a health one. Investors and businesses will grab what they have been offered in the budget, but they will remain cautious until the health concerns globally decline to an acceptable level.
“On this important front, the Minister has not provided sufficient budget to Health to prepare in case of a second round of the virus. He has not outlined how Fiji will protect our people from those coming from abroad. This is dangerous.
“Finally, the Minister has not addressed one of the fundamental problems that has contributed to where we are today and that is economic diversification. This is absurd.”
Mr. Narube will make a fuller analysis of the budget and compare it to Unity Fiji’s Alternative Budget later.