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A Budget For The People

This is a people’s budget. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the Minister for Finance, delivered a broadly representative Budget that caters for the interests of many people from low income earners to high-earners
24 Nov 2014 11:17
A Budget For The People

This is a people’s budget. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the Minister for Finance, delivered a broadly representative Budget that caters for the interests of many people from low income earners to high-earners and businesses.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has reached out to the poor and marginalised. The free water, power and medicine is a deliberate social policy to spread the nation’s wealth for those struggling to make ends meet.

Government gets a big tick for living up to its election promises.

Despite the increasing spending right across the board and the fact that the national expenditure of $3.3 billion exceeds the total expected revenue of $3.1 billion, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum is buoyed by growing and positive signs in the economy.

He has revised up Government’s economic growth forecast from three per cent a year ago to a projected 4.2 per cent.

Recently, I visited Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka and Ba. The signs of a robustly growing economy were visible.

Wherever I travelled, construction in what appeared to be a building boom was happening, from residential homes to commercial properties.

Based on key economic performance indicators like building, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum is confident that the net deficit of $213.9 million which is equivalent to 2.5 per cent of the GDP is manageable.

He estimates that there will be 30 per cent increase in Government’s capital investment to 41 per cent of total expenditure.

It will require tight and disciplined financial management to ensure that the deficit does not blow out to a level where desperate austerity measurers are introduced to rein in spending.

Knowing Government performance over the past years and a strengthening economy, the Budget will be kept under control.

Costs aside, these are the reasons why this Budget is popular right across the board:

n The $653.6 million allocated to the Fiji Roads Authority means roading infrastructure development will continue. The FRA received the biggest vote. To the users, they can expect better standard of roads in the next four years.

n The second biggest allocation went to Education with $556 million. This will allow the Government to continue with free education, free busfare, give Year one students free milk, improve student/teacher ratio and hire more teachers. A total of 10 technical colleges are expected to be set up in the country and $52.5 million has been allocated to the Tertiary Loans Scheme.

The one learning device per child programme (laptop) has been allocated a total amount of $800,000 for next year.

– Free prescribed medicine for Fijians earning less than $20,000 a year. This is included in the $269.7 million that Health is getting. And 150 more doctors and 200 nurses will be recruited. Health has been progressively assisted to upgrade services over the years. Over the next four years expect better service delivery especially at Outpatients/Emergency Departments in hospitals. We should expect waiting times to reduce.

– Free water for Fijians earning less than $30,000 a year.

– Power subsidy for low income earners. The Government will delivers on its promise by increasing the electricity subsidy for low-income families from the current 75 kilowatts to 85 kilowatts.

– FNPF Employer contributions will increase by two per cent from January next year. Workers will get more retirement savings.

– The value of MV Fringe Benefit Tax will be reduced by 50 per cent.

– The minimum agricultural capital investment required to qualify for a 10 year tax free holiday is reduced from $2 million to $250,000.

– Those who cannot pay their tax liability enjoy an amnesty of six months. They need to come back to FRCA with a payment programme.

– A six-month amnesty has also been granted to people to make accurate declarations of assets outside Fiji.

– People who earn $2 an hour or less under the National Minimum Wage Rate will get $2.32.

– Government’s decision to increase the annuity of former prime ministers Sitiveni Rabuka, Mahendra Chaudhry and Laisenia Qarase by 20 per cent is a wonderful gesture. So as the compensation for 50 retired women civil servants who lost all their retirement benefits during the colonial times during the years they were unmarried.

– Government has also provided financial assistance for Christmas Island veterans who were exposed to dangerous radiation.

– Police will get $120 million.

– The RFMF will get $103.3 million.

– The Fiji Corrections Services will have an increased budget of $38 million. One Hundred new positions for prison wardens will also be created next year.

The increased funding for the disciplined forces will make them stronger.

It underscores Government’s priority in ensuring internal security.

This first Budget is a winner for Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

It sets the tone for the next four years.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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