Opinion

Spreading Our National Wealth In Responsible Way

One of the challenges of any government is to spread the development dollars to benefit all irrespective of where they live. The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum alluded
03 Aug 2016 08:32
Spreading Our National Wealth In Responsible Way

One of the challenges of any government is to spread the development dollars to benefit all irrespective of where they live.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum alluded to this when he spoke at the Third Speaker’s Debate at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on  Monday night.

He said Government needed to take a holistic approach in setting out the National Budget and at the same time trying to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. He was responding to question from Government MP Netani Rika. Mr Rika asked how Government would priorities the SDG goals when setting the Budget.

Before he prepared the 2016-17 Budget, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum sought the people’s views in nation-wide public consultations.  He and his team gathered a wide range views from school students to politicians and the business community.

The feedback guided them in preparing the Budget. We can see the evidence of this in the Budget – a balancing act between provisions to stimulate the economy and fulfil Government’s social responsibility. This, including its sustainability, is the big challenge. It is even more difficult to do in the wake of the devastation by Cyclone Winston. But Government is confident that it can sustain it through prudent financial management.

Spreading the national wealth always sparks debate. Distribution of public funds should be proportionate to the needs of the people and where they live.

While it is important to create the infrastructure and the environment to attract foreign investment and stimulate economic growth, it is equally important to use these gains from these initiatives to create jobs, help people get out of poverty and develop rural and maritime areas.

Minister for Education Mahendra Reddy has been working flat out to help rural and maritime schools with all kinds of assistance to upgrade their facilities, improve transport and lift academic standards. He wants to raise their standards to be on the same par with urban schools.

The Government’s initiative to decentralise its services is a major relief to people who live in rural and maritime areas. They don’t have to travel to Suva to access these services. They can access free legal aid, register a business and obtain a birth certificate in Post Offices across the country. These are some of the services that can be received outside of Suva.

The building of roads, bridges, health centres and hospitals in the rural and maritime areas is part of Government’s responsibility and the funds come from the Budget.

Communication is another major area that the Government is focusing on. The move from analogue to digital television is welcome. The challenge is to ensure  people in the rural and maritime areas can access the service.

At the moment some areas in Fiji have weak signals and there are connectivity problems. Mobile phones are difficult to use.

The challenge is to overcome this technical problem so that wherever you are in Fiji, you can use phones, listen to the radio, access internet and watch television without any hassles.

You just get the feeling that for a long time the rural and maritime areas were either neglected or very little was done when you compare what is being been done now to the past.

Rural production is an important bread basket for the national economy.

Overall, our economy is subject to the vagaries of international trade market trends and climate change. It’s part of  globalisation. As such it must be anchored by a strong and robust economic growth. It means the narrowing of the gap between the haves and the haves not, rich and poor.

The Government’s $1000 grants to help small businesses and $10 million to help iTaukei landowners to commercially develop their land are major initiatives that will help empower people become participants in contributing to economic growth.

It’s all part of spreading the nation’s wealth in a responsible way.

Nemani Delaibatiki

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 



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