Opposition Were Not Prepared For ‘People First’ Budget: A-G

“A number of the Opposition members were saying that we are overly dependent on vaccination. What is the alternative? There is none and of course they won’t offer any,” the A-G said.
29 Jul 2021 11:53
 Opposition Were Not Prepared For ‘People First’ Budget: A-G
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Photo: Ronald Kumar

The Opposition members were definite­ly not prepared for a budget designed to put people first, says Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, while delivering his right of reply to the 2021-2022 National Budget yesterday, said the Opposition were completely caught off guard with the budg­et.

“Mr Speaker sir, because they only have doom and gloom in mind and they were therefore not expecting the bold and extraor­dinary measures that were announced,” he said.

“They were hoping that we will fail in this budget, then we will announce major cuts in civil service salaries, pull back on social welfare and income support for the unem­ployed, increase taxes, perhaps, and leave our businesses and MSMEs behind.”

He said the Opposition also could not ac­cept the fact that Government was far ahead in the game to achieve herd immunity.

“That is what is hurting them as they can­not see this crisis is coming to an end, be­cause they realise that despite the current attempts to play political advantages from this pandemic, they have failed and with the crisis ending, they don’t have much time left on their hand,” he said.

“In simple terms, Mr Speaker, sir. Well, they may understand the TikTok terms, they lost the plot. We have taken vaccination very seriously. Mr Speaker sir, because the science experiences have shown that mass vaccination is the only permanent and suit­able solution to this pandemic.”

He said Fiji could not lose this opportunity, and everyone who had received their first shot needed to ensure that they got their sec­ond jab.

“A number of the Opposition members were saying that we are overly dependent on vaccination. What is the alternative? There is none and of course they won’t offer any,” the A-G said.

“If they think we should have a complete lockdown. It is not sustainable solution as we’ve seen everywhere. Vaccination is the only solution now Mr Speaker, sir.

“That is why our development partners, and now the bulk of it are giving us the vac­cines, because that is the solution. That’s how we’ll be able to get our borders open. That’s how they will open their borders to us. That’s how we can get the tourists back and rebuild our economy and get peo­ple back to jobs.”

Scoring political points

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also said it was unfor­tunate that COVID-related deaths were po­liticised in the budget debate.

“Honourable Tabuya, Honourable Qereqeretabua did not shy away in politicis­ing COVID deaths ashamedly, completely being inconsiderate of the lost lives and the families.

“Mr Speaker, hundreds of thousands of people who have unfortunately lost their lives due to the virus all over the world. But we do not have Opposition members in those countries blaming those deaths on the Prime Minister and the Government.

“They’re too busy thinking about elections, they’re too busy thinking about how they can score small political point, they’re too busy thinking about how many likes they can get in the next one hour.”

Economic contraction

He said it was absurd that the Opposition tried to portray that the current economic crisis was solely the doing of the Fijian Gov­ernment.

“The economy was hit hard by the pandem­ic, estimated to have contracted by 15.7 per cent in 2020, public finances have been under pressure, tax revenues, took a major blow de­clining by about 50 per cent, and unemploy­ment levels rose, making the socio-economic situation challenging.

“Almost every single nation in the world has been affected, and the economy is contracting the majority the tourism dependent economy has experienced double digit economic con­traction Mr Speaker, these are facts that are available publicly yet of course the Opposi­tion doesn’t like the fact that we’re still seeing the same old fables the same old storylines.”

Printing money

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum reminded Lynda Tabuya that the Government does not have the legal right to print money.

“I’m also talking to a post made a few tik­toks on printing money. Mr Speaker, sir. I’ll be worried if your position was to prepare a national budget.

“If they think the solution for everything is to print money. Maybe there’s one reason why they’ve never been able to come up with an alternative budget, and that is a point.”

He said while printing money may sound simple and attractive, it is much more of a complex issue.

“We do not interfere with the decisions of independent institutions in particular, the monetary policies that govern and run by the Reserve Bank of Fiji.”

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