NEWS

Acting PM Fires Back

Opposition members yesterday got a lesson in reality and how real economics work from Finance Minister and Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Through his Budget Address right of reply, he
05 Dec 2014 10:10
Acting PM  Fires Back
Minister for Education Rosy Akbar and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama shares cake with Suvavou Kindergarten students after the opening on August 12, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Opposition members yesterday got a lesson in reality and how real economics work from Finance Minister and Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Through his Budget Address right of reply, he responded strongly in Parliament to various issues raised by the Opposition. He questioned their sincerity, their understanding of finance and business and a threatening racial undertone to their comments.

PENSIONS

He also questioned the manner in which Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa passionately sought an explanation on her former prime minister Laisenia Qarase’s pension. But she forgot about hundreds of female pensioners deprived of their money for decades, he said.

Nothing had been done about getting justice for these retired female civil servants when Ro Teimumu was previously a minister in the Qarase-led Government.

The FijiFirst Government has righted this wrong, paying former female civil servants pensions for the years they worked as spinsters but were deprived through colonial-era rules.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said comments by Opposition members were filled with an undertone of threats based on ethnicity or race. They also showed their the lack of basic understanding of commerce, or running corporations,  or the the private sector.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “They talk about growing the economy, but have an undercurrent of separate development and threats of instability.

“How can you obtain investor confidence?

LOCAL COMPANIES

“On one hand they talk about using locals and local companies but don’t they want the best person for the job?

“They talk about import substitution not working, yet talk about creating jobs. Have they thought about food security? Have they thought about foreign reserves’ depletion?”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum mocked Opposition comments, saying scornfully of their views:

“Let’s go and tell all the dairy farmers not to produce milk because we get cheaper milk from New Zealand. Let’s go and tell all the poultry farmers in the rural areas to stop growing chickens because the Aussies, the Kiwis and the Brazilians can dump cheaper chicken in Fiji, with it they bring their diseases.”

TOURIST SPEND

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also gave Opposition shadow finance minister and academic Biman Prasad some much needed insight on how economics in theory differs from real life.

He told the House that Opposition’s comments on getting a million tourists to Fiji were devoid of any sense. He said it was the amount of money tourists spend in Fiji during their stay which the focus should be.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum reminded them that it took decisive leadership by the Bainimarama Government to cross the 600,000 mark on the number of tourists coming to Fiji.

He also said instead of being complacent Fiji should and was actively seeking new markets such as India and China. This is from where tourists who spend significant amounts come from.

“Let them also understand the dynamics of new tourism today. The Chinese and the Indians are the highest spenders today. Yes, we want the Aussies and the Kiwis, we will continue with that but we need to advertise new markets. That is why $12 million is a pittance to be able to market Fiji to 350 million homes.”

FIJI AIRWAYS

Previously, comments had been made in Parliament from the Opposition that Australian airline Qantas should assist in management of Fijian national carrier Fiji Airways.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum reminded the House of the $2.973 billion accumulated loss that Qantas has made in four years. This was in contrast to the approximately $60 million record profit that Fiji Airways has reported for the 2013/2014 period.

He also questioned whether the Opposition knew that when Qantas held 46 per cent shares in the then Air Pacific, they had majoritarian rights. They could dictate which routes the carrier could operate on and even on appointments amongst other issues.

He added: “Lesson one for today, Commerce; Majoritarian rights in this sense means when a minority shareholder acts like a majority owner.”

FIJI PINE

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also reminded the Opposition of the power of meritocracy. He used the example of Fiji Pine Limited which in 2013 recorded profits for the first time in its 40 year history, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the landowners do not care if the executive chair’s name is “Faiz or Alifereti, Mere or Prem”.

PRIVATISATION

He also highlighted how the Opposition’s position on privatisation of the airports was preposterous.

He said: “Do they know that when we partially divest, we also allow capital injections, it also grows the capital markets, it allows ordinary Fijians to invest in their savings in the capital markets? It does not mean you compromise security at the airport.

“What a preposterous idea. Sydney airport is privatised, Madam Speaker. Half the airports in the world are privatised.

“But, the reason, the rationale they are saying that we should not do so because we will lose control over security, we will lose control over the customs regulations and bio-security. Madam Speaker, we have already said that there will be partial divestment – it creates better efficiency.”

THE VERDICT

Result: Resounding win for FijiFirst Government and Finance Minister Sayed-Khaiyum.

Opposition: Serious questions about where they are going, capacity on their side of House.

Quotes: Acting PM shows up Opposition in Parliament
PENSIONERS: “The Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa sought an explanation of former Prime Minister Laisenia’s Qarase’s pension but forgot about hundreds of female pensioners who were deprived of their money for decades.”
INVESTMENT: “They talk about growing the economy, but have an undercurrent of seperarate development and threats of instability. How can you obtain investor confidence,?”
TOURISTS: ”Let them also understand the dynamics of new tourism today. The Chinese and the Indians are the highest spenders today. Yes, we want the Aussies and the Kiwis, we will continue with that but we need new markets. That’s why $12 million is a pittance to be able to market it to 350 million homes.”
FOOD: “Have they thought about food security? Have they thought about foreign reserves depletion?
MARKETS: “Do they know that when we partially divest, we also allow capital injections, it also grows capital markets, it allows ordinary Fijians to invest in their savings in the capital markets.”

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj




Fiji Sun Instagram
Fiji Plus
Subscribe-to-Newspaper