A-G Gives Online Budget Straight Talk

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Government would be looking at the many of the initiatives which the Government undertook to help people.
01 Mar 2021 09:54
A-G Gives Online Budget Straight Talk
An aerial view of Suva City. Photo: Ronald Kumar

The state of government finances, the national debt, infrastructure, agriculture, opening borders, scholarships and legalising marijuana were part of questions posed to the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Speaking live from Singapore on the forum titled Straight Budget Talk National Budget Consultation 2021 – 2022 on the Fijian Government Facebook page, he responded to the questions that were sent a day earlier and also responded to some questions that were posted live.

Government Finances

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said COVID-19 had brought about a situation that the world had never experienced before. He said with tourism being affected, Government’s revenue was affected as tax and fiscal policies were relaxed to ensure that the industry stayed alive.

He said in the last six months Government revenue was $964.8 million, $12.5m more than forecasted. He said expenses for the same period were $1.5 billion.

Government Debt

The current debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio stood at 67.3 per cent and to rise to 83 per cent. He said the Government had to borrow because of the decrease in revenue. He said $1.4b had been borrowed externally while $940m domestically.

He said the borrowing was done to pay for Government expenditure, which had to be done because of the pandemic.

He said Fiji’s borrowing was still at a healthy level.

Government assistance

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Government would be looking at the many of the initiatives which the Government undertook to help people.

He said so far the Fiji National Provident Fund has paid $205m to people affected by COVID-19 of which $102m was provided by the Government. He said as the assistance continued, more people were expected to deplete their general account finances and the Government would be paying more people.

Civil Service Pay Cut

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Fijian Government had not considered reducing salaries of civil servants. He said there were many civil servants in the front line protecting the nation and ensuring that economic drivers and policies put in place were executed well.

He said their expectations from civil servants had also been increased as benchmarks lifted to ensure they were performance driven.

He said civil servants had an effect on driving other sectors of the economy. He added that they found that when civil servants were paid hotels and other businesses had movement.

Legalising marijuana

Among many giving their input, legalising marijuana was suggested. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said many countries in the North were doing that, but on the back of a well planned legislation. He said in Australia, opium was produced and sold direct to pharmaceutical companies making opium an agricultural commodity.

He said laws in Fiji needed to be modernised and this process would require consultation and above all co-operation that people stayed within the law.

Face to Face

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there would be a face to face consultation and invited some of the people commenting online to join the Ministry of Economy team when that would take place.

He said what Fiji needed was genuine participation. He said everyone in the nation should contribute and make sure that they get their views in.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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