A-G Hits Out At Opposition Attacks On FJ

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday hit out at Opposition attacks in Parliament against Fiji Airways. He said the attacks showed a lack of fundamental knowledge of economics and commercial markets. Mr
23 Mar 2017 11:00
A-G Hits Out At Opposition Attacks On FJ
Fiji Airways Airbus A330.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday hit out at Opposition attacks in Parliament against Fiji Airways.

He said the attacks showed a lack of fundamental knowledge of economics and commercial markets.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum told the House some of the practices of the then Air Pacific under past governments did not make financial sense.

This included leasing a Boeing 767 for which US$1million was paid a month. A Boeing 747 was leased at US$650,000 per month.

He explained that it was the Bainimarama Government and later the FijiFirst Government which put its faith in the national carrier and in fact saw the need to support the national carrier to quickly modernise its fleet and to buy the Airbus A330s it now operates.

He further explained what happened to other regional national carriers such as Samoa’s Polynesian Airlines international services and Royal Tongan Airlines. They got shut down leaving their countries at the mercy of foreign carriers,

The Opposition attack on Fiji Airways came in three waves and follows soon after the Fiji Airways group’s record pre-tax profit and groundbreaking increased profit sharing with staff.

First, National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad questioned why the Fiji Airways annual report was not tabled in Parliament.

Second, SODELPA MP Ratu Sela Nanovo said the airline’s profit-sharing scheme with its employees was wrong because the money it borrowed belonged to all workers in Fiji.

Then SODELPA MP Viliame Gavoka expressed his concern  about the scale of grant given to Fiji Airways compared to other organisations.

Replying to Mr Prasad first, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, who is also Minister for Economy and Civil Aviation, said Fiji Airways’ loan repayment to the Fiji National Provident Fund was way ahead of what Fiji Airways should be paying.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said under the Public Enterprise Act, Fiji Airways was not a Government commercial company.

With the annual report issue, he said the Opposition could access the report at the Companies Office.

He pointed out there were other entities receiving Government grants that didn’t present their annual reports in Parliament.

Audited accounts of Fiji Airways, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said, were signed off by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

On comments about this, he challenged: “I want you to say this outside the House and I want you to take PricewaterhouseCoopers on.”

On Mr Gavoka’s concern, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said 70 per cent of tourists came to Fiji by Fiji Airways and we also needed to connect Fiji to greater markets.

“Anyone that understands business will tell you, that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket….

“We as Fijians need to support Fiji Airways because it’s our national carrier; it is creating jobs and new destinations,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He also praised Fiji Airways for its profit sharing programme.

He said Fiji Airways was the only company in Fiji that had some State interest in it and had profit sharing for its staff. He said it was a wonderful thing and it was unprecedented, and this was apart from their salaries and individual bonuses.

He added: “I hope all staff of Fiji Airways are watching this and seeing that the Opposition Members don’t want them to receive share of profit.”

He said Fiji Airways, through the Bainimarama Government, had made much more progress compared to the previous Governments.

He was responding to Mr Gavoka, who said the current developments Government undertook in improving Fiji Airways services were also undertaken in previous governments to the then Air Pacific.

In response, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the reality was Fiji Airways success today was possible because of the strategic changes made by the Bainimarama Government.

“Today we don’t pay those kinds of ridiculous rates,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said of the former leasing arrangements..

He said they were in the position to upgrade the fleet with modern aircraft, including the five new Boeing 737 Max 8s now on order.

He said of the Opposition stance: “Suddenly they have a problem because Fiji Airways is doing well.”


Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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