Opinion

EDITORIAL-Budget Vindicates Govt About Its Purpose Of Holding Public Consultations

The content of the new national Budget reflects, to a certain extent, the issues raised at the nation-wide consultations conducted by the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. It
01 Jul 2017 10:37
EDITORIAL-Budget Vindicates Govt About Its  Purpose Of Holding Public Consultations
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum after the budget announcement on June 29, 2017.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau

The content of the new national Budget reflects, to a certain extent, the issues raised at the nation-wide consultations conducted by the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

It vindicates Mr Sayed-Khaiyum and his FijiFirst Government from allegations that the consultations were politically motivated.

They were also accused of brain-washing students in the schools Budget consultations.

At the Fiji National University campus in Natabua, Lautoka, students complained they were struggling to make ends meet because their allowance under TELS was not enough to cover all their expenses.

They also complained that some landlords had increased rents to exorbitant levels.

After rent, the students claimed they had little left to pay for food and other necessities.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum listened, investigated and incorporated their plight in the new Budget.

Now TELS student allowance for the semester-based students will be increased from $4434 to $6600.

Trimester-based student allowance will be increased from $5736 to $7125. Not only that, based on concerns raised at similar consultations, TELS students will now be allowed to repeat units they fail.

They can also change their programme of study, including majors and minors.

That’s a significant change for tertiary students because it provides a lifeline to have another crack at setting their future course right.

At long last the nurses are being recognised for the sacrifice they have been giving to serve the people of this country. The pay rise of up to 74 per cent for nurses who work in rural and remote rural and maritime areas under extremely difficult conditions was long overdue.

Thanks to the FijiFirst Government for recognising their plight and deciding to compensate them for the tough environment they work in. These nurses are the cornerstone of our health service.

They work on their own, without the supervision of doctors. With limited resources, they have had to endure difficult and unforgiving terrain on their feet or on horseback in areas inaccessible by road, to carry out their home visits to see patients, mothers, babies and children.

Their passion for the Florence Nightingale pledge keeps them going in battling the odds. So they fully deserve the pay rise.

When Mr Sayed-Khaiyum talks about a merit-based employment and remuneration system, this is what it’s all about, recognising those who step outside of their comfort zone and walk the extra mile to fulfill a noble responsibility to serve the people, no matter at what hour of the night and what the weather conditions may be.

It is a reality that many nurses would prefer to work in modern, urban hospitals because of these challenges. But this pay rise would be an incentive to serve in the rural areas and to justifi ably reward those who are serving there now. Nurses in specialist positions are also getting pay rises of up to 25 per cent.

They deserve it because they have studied, trained and worked hard to reach those positions. Our medical service needs more specialists to raise the standard of medical care.

The pay rise would motivate other nurses to go for specialist training. Teachers are also getting a pay rise. They will receive an average of 14.3 per cent while school heads and administration staff will get 13.8 per cent.

The teachers’ unions have made submissions in consultations for pay rises for teachers. The teachers too deserve the pay rise and again we should thank the Government for recognising the importance of their role in educating our children.

It is hoped that in determining what they individually get, that teachers who are posted to remote rural areas and who have to put up with all kinds of challenges, will be fairly compensated in the same way as the rural nurses are now being treated.

The biggest and most valuable asset of any nation is its people.

When they are recognised and well treated, the Government can expect wonderful returns.

This Budget is a responsible and responsive one because it took into consideration the views of the people .

It’s an investment for the future and it should silence the critics.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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