NEWS

A-G Outlines Progress and Work in Loans, Education, Health and Waterworks

A new 200 bed maternity unit will be built at the Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hos­pital. Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum revealed this on FBC’s Aaina talkback show yesterday. Speaking to talkback
30 May 2018 10:36
A-G Outlines Progress and Work in Loans, Education, Health and Waterworks
Attorney-General and Minister for Education Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

A new 200 bed maternity unit will be built at the Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hos­pital.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum revealed this on FBC’s Aaina talkback show yesterday.

Speaking to talkback show’s Shammi Lochan, Mr Sayed-Khai­yum spoke in-depth about the budg­et consultation, Fiji’s debt level and the continued efforts by some peo­ple and political parties to spread misinformation.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there was a global shortage of doctors, par­ticularly specialists. He said it was not easy to get specialists to come to Fiji. He gave an example that while in India, they had discussed about getting some specialists to Labasa. Doctors in turn questioned whether there was an internation­al school in Labasa, what sort of nightlife was available.

These things, he said, was taken into account by doctors when over­seas recruiting was done.

Health

The Government is mindful of the needs in the health system and through the public-private partner­ship which was planned for Ba and Lautoka Hospitals, Mr Sayed-Khai­yum said they have attached some conditions.

Some of these conditions are the ability to have heart surgery done daily at any given time. He also re­vealed that oncology care was also a requirement Government has put forward.

“God willing in the next two to three months, a new hospital pro­vider will come for those two hospi­tals and a lot of services for which people are going out of country, they will be able to get it done here,” he said.

“We will also have a groundbreak­ing ceremony in CWM. We are building a new maternity wing with 200 beds, but this new wing will be built to international stand­ard. In some places, hospitals were built without proper planning and it becomes difficult to manoeuvre beds between wards. It was not built to international standards. It was not built as a medical centre. We had PWD (Public Works Depart­ment) previously and they would just go and build it anyhow. They did not have any sort of planning or medical considerations,” he said while speaking in Hindi.

Amnesty extended

He has further revealed that another week’s amnesty period will be provided to people to re­turn their Homes CARE cards if they took it under dubi­ous means.

Debt level

All Governments, past and present have taken loans, but it is impor­tant to see what that loaned money is used for, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said that Governments from Ratu Mara, Sitiveni Rabuka, Ma­hendra Chaudhry, Laisenia Qar­ase all took loans which had to be repaid by successive Governments.

“When the Bainimarama-Govern­ment was appointed in 2007, there was some $2.4 billion in debt. We obviously have to service that. If we have taken loans, but there has not been anything to show for it, it would mean that it was taken for wrong reasons,” he said.

He also explained that this Gov­ernment has saved about $800 million from the total revenue col­lected and this means that money can be used to invest in our infra­structure further, without needing to borrow more.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said while for every dollar spent on infrastruc­ture development, this Govern­ment has borrowed 30 cents while previous Governments had bor­rowed 70 cents to 75 cents for every dollar they spent in developing the infrastructure.

Loans, he said, is not a bad thing if used in the right place.

He gave the example of the four lanes road in Nadi built now and will not need to be built decades down the line.

Drainage

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Min­istry of Waterways has been set up to deal with waterways and drain­age issues. He was informed that Queen Elizabeth Drive was closed off due to flooding and was asked what the Government had in store to fix this problem.

He questioned, when was the last time the drains were built and when was the last time the en­tire drainage system was over­hauled?

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said they had noted that per­mits to construct buildings were given out with­out any thought on how it would affect issues such as drainage and that it was done without proper planning.

“The Minister of Waterways is do­ing a lot of work. He has solved a lot of issues in Labasa as well. We are getting a lot of interest from overseas people because of climate change. Rainfall which used to be recorded over a year, is recorded over a few days while rainfall re­corded over a month is now record­ed over a few hours. Obviously, we need to ensure that the drainage issues are taken on board.”

Education

The Government is looking at ways to see how repayments of loans taken by students through the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme is eased.

“There have been submissions made on increasing the number of full scholarships as well, and these are the areas we are looking into.”

He also talked about making edu­cation relevant and gave the ex­ample of mathematics. He said as done in Australia, there could be two streams of mathematics- Pure Maths and Life Maths. Pure Maths could be chosen by students who want to explore certain fields while Life Maths could be for students who do not want to pursue math­ematics as a major subject in their careers.

Also, he said he was informed dur­ing a budget consultation that the Ministry of Education was not ac­cepting typed projects and insisted that it be handwritten. Upon en­quiry, he found out that someone had decided that because all stu­dents do not have access to comput­ers, it was mandatory that all pro­jects be submitted handwritten.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, who is also the Education Minister, said this did not make sense and that some­thing of this sort needed to be made optional so that students who had access to computers or typewriters could submit typed projects, while those who did not could submit handwritten ones.

He said we need to progress.

Modern Fiji

He said through a scheme such as eTicketing, it made it easy for Government to provide bus fare as­sistance after recent floods. He said if eTicketing was not an option, it would not have been feasible to pro­vide bus fare vouchers worth $50 to individuals. For a modern and pro­gressive Fiji, the thinking needs to be modern and progressive.

“We need to think outside the box,” he said.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

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