SODELPA: Policies for Economic Growth

Party opinion Ro Teimumu Kepa SODELPA leader The Bainimarama–Sayed Khaiyum regime’s economic performance during the last seven-and-a-half years is the worst for any government since independence in 1970. Some of
09 Aug 2014 08:37

Party opinion
Ro Teimumu Kepa SODELPA leader
The Bainimarama–Sayed Khaiyum regime’s economic performance during the last seven-and-a-half years is the worst for any government since independence in 1970. Some of the regime’s key performance indicators are:
n The average GDP growth for the period 2007 to 2014 will be a mere 1.1 per cent of GDP, which falls far short of the regime’s target of five per cent of GDP.
n Unemployment is very high. A statement from the Ministry of Labour said about 30,000 people have registered as unemployed with the Ministry. Of this number about 12,000 hold qualifications from the USP and other tertiary institutions.
n Poverty level is around 45 per cent or higher, a jump from 32 per cent in 2006.
n A 2010/11 survey shows paid employment declined by 3 per cent since 2007, while real incomes declined by a massive 30 per cent.
n Public debt has been around 50 per cent of GDP, but the true figure may be higher.
n Cumulative inflation since 2007 is around a high 45 per cent.
Jobs and economic growth
A SODELPA government will do the following:
n Achieve growth from a well-managed and more open economy, founded on good governance and sound policies, bolstered by confidence among investors, employers and workers.
n Priority to provide employment and livelihood for thousands of people without an income.
n Allocate $50m annually to subsidise the prices of an approved list of VAT-free basic food items. This will give relief to the poor and the needy.
n Restore full union rights and collective bargaining.
n Every wage earner to be paid enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living, following wage stagnation of the last seven-and-a-half years. Minimum wages to be set for different economic sectors.
n Bring poverty level down significantly from its current 45 per cent or higher.
n We will continue with the social welfare allowance scheme but with improved administration and service to the beneficiaries.
n There will be a review of the operations and delivery of the regime’s old age pension scheme which is more a welfare payment. Our aim is to increase the monthly amount.
n For the longer term we will institute planning for introduction of a more realistic pension scheme for non-provident fund members that is indexed for inflation.
n Programmes will be introduced to lift standards of living for the poorest of the poor.
n Our overall objective is to reduce the number of people living below the poverty line and to do this as quickly as possible.
n We favour continuation of the food voucher scheme, with a review of its management and efficiency.
n The bus fare scheme for the elderly, originally conceived by the SDL government, will continue.
n We will allocate more resources to support the disabled and ensure their ne-eds, including transport access, are recognised not only by the Government, but by municipalities and in building design.
n Organisations wh-ich provide service and care for children, orphans and the elderly will be given funding.
n Aim for consistent expansion of the economy. Five percent GDP growth per annum; debt level of 45 per cent GDP (it has ballooned to about $4bn under the Bainimarama-Khaiyum regime); inflation of not more than 3 per cent per annum; and annual investment growth of 25 per cent of GDP. Achievement of these goals will spur the creation of jobs desperately needed.
n Budget deficits should not exceed 3 per cent of GDP. Target to reach a balanced budget within five years.
n Create jobs through rising investment and diversification in local markets and for exports. Priority areas – tourism; construction; environmentally–responsible mining/mineral exploration; forestry and agri-business including coconut products; floriculture; ITC-information, telecommunication and communication technology; call centres; garments; ship-building and repairs; sustainable fisheries; sustainable use of other marine resources; film-making; handicrafts; fashion/design; traditional and contemporary arts; encouragement of numerous forms of service industries such as retirement villages and small businesses.
n Review and where possible enhance investment incentives, concentrated on new investment and initiatives providing new jobs.
n Cut back on regulations and approvals required for starting/operating a business; thus smoothing the way for reputable investors who can commit funds and resources to ventures which create decent work and for small entrepreneurs who form the backbone of an economy.
n Total review of excessive price control which is stifling job-creating business; ensure in the review protection of the poor and working classes.
n Removal of Capital Gains Tax which is a disincentive to business owners and investors.
n Appointment of private sector Think Tank to consult on policies for growth and spreading income fairly. Free and regular exchange of views with cross-section of business leaders.
n Regular contact and consultation with advocates for the poor and for social justice.
n Honour contracts and legal rights, following regime’s breaking of FNPF pension contracts and denial to pensioners of certain legal rights of redress.
n No more laws passed unilaterally on the whim of a minister.
n Priority to be placed on small business for employment creation and economic growth.
Fiscal and monetary
n Objective to promote development and maintenance of strong, stable fiscal and monetary system that will assist in growth of a vibrant and sustainable economy.
n Ensure that Reserve Bank functions independently. There is an impression it may have lost some of its independence.
n The FNPF’s credibility was seriously damaged when it unjustly slashed certain pensions, mainly for the working and middle classes, by up to 50 per cent.
n Foreign reserves to be kept equivalent to 5 months of imports.
n Close and effective supervision of financial institutions and systems.
n Prudent management of public finance and debt; appropriate allocation of capital and operating expenditure consistent with ratio of 30-70 per cent;
n Controlling borrowing to stabilise debt through careful economic and financial management.
n Taxation system to be reviewed and rebalanced every five years to maintain strategic consistency and predictability.

n The opinions expressed in this column are those of the Social Democratic Liberal Party. They are published by the Fiji Sun to enhance free and open debate ahead of the general elections.

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