Students Empowered by Budget Consultations

Students demonstrated in the last three Budget consultations in schools that they want their voices heard on issues of national importance. They indicated clearly that they wanted to be participants
12 Apr 2017 11:00
Students Empowered by Budget Consultations
QVS students (from left) Emosi Narube, Paul Chong, Ovini Navukitu, teacher Niumai Mairewa, Malakai Dovibua and Niumaia Buruaratu at the budget consultations at Vunimono Hall in Nausori on April 11, 2017. Photo: Vilimoni Vaganalau

Students demonstrated in the last three Budget consultations in schools that they want their voices heard on issues of national importance.

They indicated clearly that they wanted to be participants in national development. That’s why they have hailed the wisdom of holding the school consultations.

They have been taught, enlightened and empowered by the presentation of the processes involved in formulating a national Budget.

They have learned that Government borrows to build not to use money for consumption or operational expenses.

The size of borrowing will depend on how much we earn as revenue in what is normally referred to as the Debt to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio.

The GDP is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country’s economy. It represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period. In other words it is the size of the economy.

If you make $100 and borrow $20 you have a 20 per cent Debt to GDP ratio.

If you then make $500 and borrow $50 you have a 10 per cent Debt to GDP ratio. Even though you are borrowing more, the ratio is smaller because the state of the economy is healthier.

The trend had been improving until Tropical Cyclone Winston struck. But now it is improving again.

The students have also learned that the Government has been prudent in managing the national coffers. Its policy of borrow to build is an investment in the future.

The students heard that formulating a Budget is not a simple or easy exercise. It requires delicate balancing act to ensure that the development dollar is spread widely. But some sectors will get bigger votes than others reflecting the priorities of the Government of the day.

Infrastructure has been getting the biggest allocation because that’s an area that Government has been focusing on.

Government has to consider competing interests before it decides the final Budget.

The students were told that they are part of a group below 40 years who represents more than 60 per cent of the population. They are the leaders of the future.

In the three consultations at Navua, Suva and Vunimono, students learned that Toppers scholarships were prioritised for science related programmes. There is a serious shortage of specialist professionals. In the medical field, there is no one around to perform an open heart surgery. There is no speech therapist, marine scientist etc.

On the Toppers scheme, one student suggested that those who came from humble and poor backgrounds should be given priority.

Those who come from wealthy families could afford to pay their way through university. What she was suggesting was a means tested policy.

If that is introduced then it also throws into question the across the board tuition free education and free bus fares in primary and secondary schools.    

It’s an idea worth exploring when you consider the burgeoning cost of education and health to the Government.

On the flip side is the logistics and administration to determine who is eligible or not for the scholarships.

Once that is determined, policing it is another concern. It is not a simple exercise because there will always be people who will try and circumvent the system to get what they want.

All in all, the Budget consultations in schools are healthy, educational and empowering for students.

The students know they are valuable members of the community and their views are equally important.



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