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Ali: Need To Redress Accountability, Effectiveness Issues In Agriculture

Ali: Need To Redress Accountability, Effectiveness Issues In Agriculture
Participants of the Pacific Agriculture Policy Planners Workshop at the Holiday Inn Suva yesterday. Photo: DEPTFO News
September 23
09:32 2015

The Fijian Government has urged regional stakeholders not to lose sight of what has led to certain projects in the agriculture sector to fail.

This comes as work begins to introduce a public expenditure review of the regional agriculture sector.

Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Shaheen Ali, made the remarks as he opened the Pacific Agriculture Policy Planners Workshop at the Holiday Inn Suva yesterday.

“We should focus on how we can redress issues of accountability and effectiveness,” he said.

He therefore urged the regional Ministries of Agriculture and Finance to work jointly and methodically to examine their systems and processes.

Also to address the weaknesses underpinning low success rate and poor returns on investment on public expenditure in agriculture

“Key amongst these, are poor policy planning and implementation of agricultural public expenditure projects, in some cases leading to mismanagement of funds,” Mr Ali said.

“Therefore, capacity building in the Agriculture Ministries, (in terms of project planning and implementation), needs to be addressed.

“This is if we are to provide confidence for Governments in the Pacific to invest in the agriculture sector. Donors need the same confidence.

“Additionally, Agriculture Ministries cannot work in isolation from agencies responsible for trade, investment, tourism and rural or regional development. This applies to agricultural development partners also.”

Mr Ali said essentially, projects in agriculture should be measured similarly to projects in the other sectors.

“That is, what is the impact on the ground in term of contributing to country’s sustainable economic growth,” he said.


Declining contribution

The regional industrialised and service-oriented economies have caused agriculture sector’s contribution towards the GDP to decline over the past 10 years.

Mr Ali, using the Fijian economy as an example, said this was made up of services which represented 70 per cent of the economy.

This, he said, was followed by industries at 15 per cent whilst agriculture represented 14 per cent of the economy, half of which is sugar.

But, he noted: “This is not necessarily bad because of linkages to manufacturing and services sectors and would also enable growth in the agriculture in absolute terms.

“It also allows for modernisation and commercialisation of agriculture and for the sector to be part of domestic, regional and global value chains.”


New concept

Public Expenditure Review in the agricultural sector is a new concept for the Pacific.

It is a diagnostic instrument to evaluate public financial and provides additional arsenal for policy planners to target resources effectively.

Mr Ali stressed it is vitally important the Public Expenditure Review model should contribute to measurable targets and objectives.

In simple words, he said it meant how will this project impact the farmers and ordinary citizens?

“Agricultural Public Expenditure Review is aimed at increasing the capacity of the agricultural officials to put forward evidence based justification for expenditure proposals to the Ministry of Finance,” he said.

“As policy planners, we need to budget and invest in projects that contribute to sustainable economic growth and development objectives.

“This in turn requires better targeting of public expenditure in the agriculture sector.

“This is if we are to achieve development objectives such as food and nutritional security, self-sufficiency and local value addition in sectors such as tourism and processing.”



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