SUNBIZ

A-G says Government Is Open To Ideas

Speaking at the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) forum in Suva yesterday, he said the Government wanted specificity over how businesses were affected, and how the Government could step in to help ease the burden on the business community.
17 Mar 2020 12:55
A-G says Government Is Open To Ideas
Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry holding an open discussion with business leaders and policy makers regarding the Business Response to coronavirus on March 16, 2020 at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. Photo: Frederica Elbourne

Minister for Economy and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the Government is open to ideas about specific measures it could take in view of the impact of coronavirus.

Speaking at the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) forum in Suva yesterday, he said the Government wanted specificity over how businesses were affected, and how the Government could step in to help ease the burden on the business community.

He said one such example was a company that imported ink out of Italy at the expense of an additional cost of $7.54 for each litre.

Another example he cited was the New Zealand government offering to foot the bill of coronavirus on its employees in place of employers.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum called for a more uniformed approach to the issue of impact and urged the business community to think strategically.

He said the Government still needed to raise revenue in the midst of the circumstances brought by coronavirus.

Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Premila Kumar said it was not a simple issue and solutions would not be easy.

To the list of blanket suggestions provided by the business community, Mrs Kumar said: “If we remove all this, where will the revenue come from?”
Comments from business stakeholders

Some quarters of the business community had put forward recommendations that included scrapping Value Added Tax(VAT) on basic food items, fast-tracking refunds on VAT returns, end departure tax and suspension of student loan bonds.

However, Flour Mills of Fiji managing director Ram Bajekal said food security was not an issue, adding there was no need for panic buying.

Other suggestions from the members of the FCCI included the ease of availability of sick pay for those who suffered from the virus, suspension of family care leave and freeze on principle repayment fees over a designated period.

Mrs Kumar said the business community would suffer the brunt if VAT was scrapped.

To the suggestion that Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy(ECAL) and Service Turnover Tax (STT) be temporarily waived in the face of coronavirus, Mrs Kumar said they were the only consistent revenue.

“How will it affect hospital bills and medical needs? It’s through that revenue that we can assist small businesses,” she said.

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