PM’s Economic Prosperity Claim Contradictory: Rabuka

  Sitiveni L Rabuka is the former Prime Minister and now Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party SODEL­PA. The views and opinions expressed in the article are those
16 Jun 2018 10:00
PM’s Economic Prosperity Claim Contradictory: Rabuka
SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka. Photo: Ronald Kumar


Sitiveni L Rabuka is the former Prime Minister and now Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party SODEL­PA. The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Sitiveni Rabuka and not of the Fiji Sun.

Prime Minister Voreqe Baini­marama’s boasts about his FijiFirst Government’s per­formance in Naseyani, Ra, on Tuesday June 12, 2018, is patently false given that more of our people than ever before, are reliant on Government handouts.

Today 28 per cent of our popula­tion is living below the poverty line, and another 20 per cent live on the margins. This means almost 50 per cent of our population are facing hardship in making ends meet, and government policies have created an environment of “dependency syndrome” for the average Fijian.

Regarding PM Bainimarama’s warning to communities to be wary of political rhetoric, this warning applies equally to PM Bainimara­ma’s own boasting. Voters will have to evaluate his political rhetoric against the reality of their every­day economic struggles.

There is nothing new in Prime Minister Bainimarama’s com­ments made in Naseyani, Ra, on Tuesday. As usual, he continues to boast about his Government’s performance. It is time that Baini­marama embraces the truth and rejects lies.

The people of Fiji know from their own experience over the past 12 years the reality of the perfor­mance of the Bainimarama Gov­ernment. The standard of living and freedom of expression of ordi­nary Fijians are worse off than be­fore. The incidence of poverty has continued to increase in the past 12 years.

According to the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), poverty in the country has continued to increase because of the high cost of basic food items despite the FFP promise to keep ba­sic food items VAT free in its 2014 Manifesto. Deteriorating health services, inconsistency of Govern­ment policies, among others, are testimony to the failures of the Bainimarama Government.

As for the claim that there is wide­spread prosperity because of high economic growth, the truth is that:

n Today, more people are reliant on handouts from the Government. Rather than empowering the people to be self-reliant, the Bainimarama Government has created a “hand­out mentality” or widespread de­pendency syndrome; and

n 28.1 per cent of our population are living below the poverty rate according to the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), while another 20 per cent are living on the margins of pov­erty. This means that almost 50 per cent or half of our population are facing severe economic hardship, and struggling to make ends meet.

It is unfortunate that PM Bainima­rama is misleading the people of Fiji by saying that only his Govern­ment is growing the economy. Pre­vious governments have performed better, the Alliance Government’s average growth rate was 5 per cent, the SVT’s average growth rate was 4.2 per cent. The Bainimarama Government’s average growth rate is only around 2.1 per cent per cent. So why is he misleading the public when the actual figures say other­wise?

The Bainimarama Government has benefitted from resource-based industries established by previous governments including mahogany, pine, sugar, fisheries, tourism, gar­ment industry and the development of ICT. Major infrastructure devel­opment (roads, airports, seaports) were all constructed by previous governments and were considered adequate and relevant at that par­ticular point in time. As we mod­ernise and technology improves, there is no doubt we need to make the necessary adjustment to meet the standards and current demand. Therefore, it is the responsibility of successive governments to make the necessary adjustment and im­provements where necessary.

The only growth industry de­veloped under the Bainimarama Government is the increase in our national debt stock and the unprec­edented increase of handouts. De­spite these handouts, almost 50 per cent of our people are facing hard­ship in meeting their basic needs according to the latest HIES. The increase in freebies, handouts and non-targeted subsidies have not improved the incidence of poverty, but made the poorer segment of our society more dependent, rather than empowering them to support themselves. Despite the favourable international trading environment in the past 12 years, inflation con­tinues to increase and little pro­gress has been made in improving the lives of ordinary Fijians. Do­mestic inflation is normally driven by international price fluctuation, particularly the price of petroleum products, which has been quite fa­vourable in the past 12 years. Some­thing is wrong, somewhere.

FijiFirst promised not to impose VAT on basic food items in its 2014 manifesto, but broke this promise. Although Value Added Tax (VAT) was reduced to 9 per cent with ef­fect from January 1, 2016 (a reduc­tion of 6 per cent), an additional 16 per cent increase was put into place, with the imposition of 10 per cent Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy (ECAL) and Sales Turnover Tax (STT) of 6 per cent. The two new taxes have more than doubled tax to be paid, compared with the reduction.

Prime Minister Bainimarama cannot continue to blame previous Governments for the poor perfor­mance after 2006, because the fig­ures reveal otherwise. His perfor­mance has to be measured on its own merits by the voters.




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