Government lost the opportunity to refocus its strategy and reset the economy towards real sectors like agriculture.

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad said government lost the opportunity to refocus its strategy in terms of looking at sectors which government has willfully neglected in the past.

The agriculture sector has not had the kind of support and attention over the last 10 years and according to the NFP, this was an opportunity for government to reset that.

“The Budget has not been crafted fairly. This was an opportunity for government to look at some of the real sectors of the economy like sugar, like agriculture. In fact the agriculture budget has marginally increased, by just $3m. It’s a terribly wrong timing to reduce the minimum guarantee price of sugar which this government incidentally announced just before the 2018 election.”

Professor Biman said in particular has been left out. In 2006 sugar was producing 3.6million tonnes now its down to around 1.5m tonnes.

“I would have imagined that thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who have lost jobs, who are working reduced hours, income – these people would be looking or opportunities in some of the real sectors and I would have thought that the government would allocated more for the Agriculture sector and indeed supported the sugar industry at this point in time rather not doing anything.”

However, Professor Biman said businesses who have been looking to stimulate the growth of their business would find some the Budget measures useful with the focus on tax concessions and reductions.

“In fact it has continued in the same vain to think that the tourism industry is the one that is going to get us of the economic disaster that we are in. As the Minister himself said, you know that there’s a lot of uncertainty about the pandemic, even we have the borders open, we all hope that its will open sooner than later but even if that happens it will take significant amount of time before we can get back to getting all those tourists.”

In the meantime those who have lost their jobs, have not had any direct support from the government.

“The social welfare budget has just increased by $40M. I would have allocated much more within its social welfare ministry so that many of those families who have lost jobs and income, workers and their families and those who are struggling to make ends meet would be supported through the Ministry of Social Welfare, unfortunately the $40m increase in the social welfare budget is too little.”

With no maintenance of the labour market, the budget he says keeps sending those who are registered back to FNPF for relief.

“I think some would not mind that. But I think government ought to look at those who have very, very low balances who are vulnerable and are already suffering and who would suffer quite significantly over the next one or two years then we should have had a much better allocation for the social welfare ministry, the employment ministry.”

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