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VAT reduced from 15% to 9%

Friday 06/11/2015

VAT will be reduced from 15 percent to 9 percent from January 1st 2016.

While delivering the 2016 National Budget, Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the VAT reduction from next year will result in the reduction of the overall cost of items.

However, VAT exemptions for the list of basic items has been removed which means VAT will also be imposed on tinned fish, powdered milk, cooking oil, flour, tea, kerosene, prescribed medicine and repeat medicines.

The zero VAT rating for the first $30 of the FEA bill will also be removed meaning that VAT will now apply on that amount.  

Sayed-Khaiyum says to provide targeted assistance, more medicines will be included in the Free Medicine Scheme. It has also been confirmed that there will be no VAT charged for items like hearing aids and wheelchairs.

The Consumer Council will receive $150,000 to set up a hotline for consumers to lodge complaints about businesses not passing down tax and duty reductions on goods and services.

A 300 percent VAT penalty will also be reintroduced to enforce VAT compliance.

The Finance Minister has also announced that the non-reduction in prices due to tax and duty reductions are punishable by a penalty of $50,000 and upon conviction to a fine up to $100,000 or 5 years imprisonment.

Looking at the changes in taxes and duties:

The Service Turnover Tax will increase from 5 percent to 10 percent. This tax applies to hotels and other service providers like rental car operators; inbound tour operators; events management operators; recreation, entertainment and cinema operators; bars and nightclubs; bistros, coffee shops and restaurants with annual gross turnover of $1.25 million above; all water sports, underwater activities, skydiving; river safaris; people providing accommodation in private residence or property that accommodate tourists, international students and overseas visitors.

There will also be a new 6 percent Environmental Levy imposed apart from Service Turnover Tax.

Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says only 5 percent more will be paid by visitors as VAT has been reduced from 15 percent to 9 percent.

The Short Life Investment Package for hotels will end from 2017.

The 55 percent Investment Allowance will continue to exist in 2016 at a reduced rate from 55 percent to 25 percent.

Sayed-Khaiyum also reveals that only $8 million in income tax was paid by hotels in 2014 although it is estimated that the total income was in excess of $800 million.

There will be increased taxes on cigarettes and alcohol by 18.5 percent (12.5 percent Excise Duty and 6 percent Health Levy).

Duty on sugar sweetened drinks will increase from 5 cents to 10 cents a litre.

There will be no more duty on sanitary pads, tampons, diapers and wireless modems.

Duty has also been reduced for perfume, jewellery, beauty or makeup preparation for care of skin, pre-shave, shaving or after shave preparations, cameras and camcorders, sunglasses, video and electronic games, watches, Ipods, MP3 and MP4 players from 32 percent to 15 percent.

Duty will also be reduced for deodorants from 15 percent to 5 percent.

There will be a complete elimination on duty for bicycles.

There will be a ban on the importation of used tyres from 2017 while duty on new tyres has been reduced from 32 percent to 5 percent.

Duty has also been reduced on mini buses carrying 10 to 22 passengers from 32 percent to 5 percent.

The Finance Minister says all new motor vehicles being brought in should be Euro 4 compliant.

Used unleaded and diesel vehicles to be imported must be up to 5 years from the manufacturing date.

Stamp duty has been exempted for all Small and Micro Enterprises.

Duty rates have been increased for imported solar batteries while the Credit Card Levy will be increased from 2 percent to 3 percent.

A Downtown duty free shopping will be introduced in 2016. The shops have to be accredited by FRCA. This will be another attraction for visitors.

Tax free zones will be extended from Nausori airport to Matawalu River in Ba. This is to encourage businesses to start operations in this zone.

There is also a 150 percent tax deduction for foreign companies setting up their headquarters in Fiji while a 50 percent tax deduction is offered to businesses that supply Fijian made uniforms to staff provided the money is not recovered from the staff.

The 30 percent duty on powdered milk will also be maintained to protect the local dairy industry.

Sayed-Khaiyum says half a billion dollars has now been declared after the announcement of the amnesty period for overseas asset declarations this year. Taxes have to be paid in Fiji by Fijian citizens owning assets overseas.

A similar amnesty will be offered for assets held in Fiji that have not been declared by individuals.

The Finance Minister calls on people to make the declarations now as FRCA will come down hard on them.

He says a major grocery outlet which has supermarkets all over Fiji has not paid any taxes in the last 6 years. The outlet is also claiming that it has not been making any profits.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority will invest $5 million to ensure better reporting and tax compliance. All cash registers will also be connected to the FRCA system to monitor sales and taxes due.

The Finance Minister says the 2016 National Budget makes a bold statement - Your government believes in you.

He says Fiji has enjoyed 4 years of economic growth of more than 4 percent.

Government revenue has gone up from $1.4 billion in 2006 to $2.6 billion in 2015, this is apart from the sale of government assets.

The government expects $3.12 billion in revenue for 2016 while the total expenditure is expected to be $3.4 billion.

The capital to operating expenditure mix is expected to be 60 percent for civil service operating expenditure and 40 percent for capital expenditure.

Fiji Ports Corporation will develop a new port development master plan after the divestment of 59 percent of shares to FNPF and Aitken Spence.

Sayed-Khaiyum says government shares will also be divested in FEA and Airports Fiji Limited.

A Civil Service Reform Management Unit has been established - $1 million allocated for this in 2016.

A Ministry of Civil Service will be established on January 1st next year.

It has been confirmed that PSC staff will be redeployed to other ministries.

Positions for the Ministry of Civil Service will be advertised soon.

The government will also carry out reforms on procuring medicine as a lot of medicine is discarded after their expiry causing a loss to taxpayers of the country. A consultant will be brought in to ensure the proper procurement of medicine for the country.

All Public Sector tenderers from 2016 have to be fully tax compliant.

Fiji Airways will commence a new route to Singapore soon.

$18 million has been provided to Fiji Airways in the 2016 National Budget.

The government will also subsidize a total of 395 domestic air travels.

The Legal Aid Commission will open new offices in Levuka, Kadavu, Nabouwalu and Rotuma in 2016 to take these services closer to the people.

From 2016, a 10 year tax holiday will be offered for investors who set up private hospitals in Fiji.

$280 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Health. This is an increase of $11 million.

$9 million has been allocated for 150 new doctors and 200 more nurses to be recruited in 2016.

The Ministry of Education will get $432.2 million next year. 250 new teachers are expected to be hired next year to improve the student teacher ratio in classrooms.

The base salaries will also increase for teachers.

The base salary for primary school teachers will be $16,610 while the base salary for secondary school teachers will be $23,411. 

$7.9 million for allowances for teachers who go to remote areas.

Another $19 million has been set aside to support the 3 technical colleges established this year and 8 technical colleges to be opened in 2016.

The free milk program will continue to be funded with an allocation of $3.6 million.

The Tertiary Education Loan Scheme and National Toppers Scheme will continue in 2016.

Good news for the people of Ba and Nadi as full Births, Deaths and Marriage services will be provided in Ba and Nadi for the first time.

The Ministry of Justice is also working on the digitization of records.

Money has also been allocated for the hire of an additional 105 Fiji Corrections Services officers.

There will be duty concessions on materials to attract private sector investment in building affordable housing units.

$2.6 million will be allocated to build 36 rental flats in Lautoka while $500,000 has been set aside to subsidize the TLTB lease payments of struggling tenants.

$52.2 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.

$22 million has been set aside to assist the needy with food vouchers.

Funding has also been increased for the Social Pension Scheme from $8 million to $13 million. The eligibility age will be reduced from 68 years to 66 years from July 2016. This is for people who do not receive any other form of pension.

The National Fire Authority will be allocated $4 million to purchase fire trucks, upgrade equipment and build a fire station in Nabouwalu while $900,000 has been allocated for more fire hydrants in the country.

Garvey Park will be extended while the first ever public swimming pool will be built in Lautoka.

A stadium will also be built in Valelevu.

New LTA offices will be set up in Nabouwalu, Lekutu and Bua.

The Fiji Roads Authority has been allocated a record $635.7 million to upgrade and repair roads around the country.

100 bridges are in danger of collapse and need to be repaired.

$79 million has been allocated for maintenance of roads around the country.

FEA to establish a depot in Taveuni to supply power in Taveuni including Somosomo.

$5.6 million has been set aside for street lighting in the rural areas. This is for many settlements and villages around the country.

The government will also fully fund the extension of the electricity grid and people do not have to pay the 10 percent contribution. This is for the people who are not on the electricity grid.

The Water Authority of Fiji has received an increased allocation of $176.3 million.

$11.2 million has been allocated to state broadcaster FBC. $6.6 million is for radio public service broadcast and $4.6 million for TV public service broadcast. Their previous yearly allocation was $2.9 million.

$2 million has been allocated to purchase Digital TV set up boxes.

Reactions:

The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Akbar says with the increase in their budget this year, it will allow them to expand their services.

The Fiji Chamber of Commerce President Peter Mazey says the reduction of VAT to 9% is a positive outcome for local businesses and consumers.

The Fiji Roads Authority CEO Neil Cook says their main focus will be developing rural roads and to give a balance of road services throughout Fiji.

FMF Foods CEO Ram Bajekal has welcomed the zero duty rating on raw materials.

SODELPA MP Aseri Radrodro says the reduction in VAT is good but more could have been done for rural communities.

NFP leader Dr Biman Prasad has welcomed the VAT reduction to 9 percent in the 2016 National Budget.

The Group Finance Director of C.J.Patel Ajith Kodagoda says the 2016 National Budget is a stable budget.

Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum says the VAT reduction will benefit everyone despite the inclusion of VAT on some basic items.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the Ministry of Civil Service will be fundamentally responsible for the overall strategy regarding civil service in Fiji.

SPORTS

$22.5 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

This will include the assistance for teams taking part in the Rio Olympics, the Northern Hemisphere rugby tour, the Pacific Nations Cup and the Under 20 World Rugby championship.

$2.2 million has been allocated for the Crusaders vs Chiefs Super Rugby match to be held in Suva on the 1st of July next year. This is the first time ever for a Super Rugby match to be held in Fiji.

More good news as international golfer, Vijay Singh has confirmed that he will represent Fiji in the Rio Olympics in 2016.

$9 million has also been allocated for the Fiji International Golf Tournament in Natadola.

Meanwhile the FMF National Gymnasium in Suva will be upgraded next year as the Fiji Sports Council has received funding for this project.


    1. $22.5 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

      This will include the assistance for teams taking part in the Rio Olympics, the Northern Hemisphere rugby tour, the Pacific Nations Cup and the Under 20 World Rugby championship.

      $2.2 million has been allocated for the Crusaders vs Chiefs Super Rugby match to be held in Suva on the 1st of July next year.

      This is the first time ever for a Super Rugby match to be held in Fiji.

      More good news as international golfer, Vijay Singh has confirmed that he will represent Fiji in the Rio Olympics in 2016.

      $9 million has also been allocated for the Fiji International Golf Tournament in Natadola.

      Meanwhile the FMF National Gymnasium in Suva will be upgraded next year as the Fiji Sports Council has received funding for this project.


    1. The government will announce its revenue and expenditure policies today on which duties and taxes are going up or down and how much funding will be allocated to the different government ministries to provide services to the people of the country.

      The decisions taken in the 2016 National Budget will affect everyone in the country as this will determine the level of allocations and the prices of goods and services.

      Consumer Council of Fiji’s Chief Executive Officer Premila Kumar said they hope for the best as people cannot get everything they want in a budget.

      Kumar is calling for the reduction of tariffs for a number of goods, and VAT can then be applied for all the items.

      She said duty should be reduced on new clothes as the prices are exorbitant.

      New clothes are currently charged a 32% duty plus 15% VAT.

      Kumar is also calling for duty to be decreased for shaving gear, deodorants, skin and hair care products and sanitary pads.

      She said most of these goods are not luxury items.

      Meanwhile the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation is hoping that the government will focus on consistency of policies when it announces the 2016 National Budget today.

      Chief Executive Officer Nesbitt Hazelman said some good policies have been brought in by the government over the past few years and this should continue.

      Hazelman said they have asked in their submission that corporate taxes, personal taxes and VAT should remain the same.

      Major concerns have also been raised that the duty and tax reductions are not passed down to consumers by the retailers.

      Hazelman is concerned about this.


    1. As the 2016 National Budget will be announced tomorrow, Minister for Education Dr Mahendra Reddy has confirmed that the Free Education Grant will be increased next year and it is not only for stationery but also for maintenance and repairs.

      The government had allocated $35 million for primary education and $31.4 million for secondary schools as grants in last year’s budget.

      Dr Reddy said they will provide additional capital grants for construction of quarters and classrooms next year to ensure that the difference between rural and urban schools is removed.

      He added the previous governments never kept an upkeep of school repairs in the rural and maritime areas.

      Dr Reddy added they have decided to take over the repair, maintenance and upkeep of the schools.

      Furthermore, Dr Reddy has also indicated that they will need $60 million to ensure that all 900 schools around the country have all the infrastructure in place for a holistic education system.

      He added this amount is to ensure that all schools have a library, library books, computer labs with computers, proper toilets and solar energy.

      Reddy said the maritime schools are in more need of facilities but they want to ensure that the reforms they carry out ensures all schools are on par in terms of infrastructure.

      He added the concerns relating to energy have been faced by schools in Lomaiviti, Lau, Kadavu, and the rural schools which are outside the electricity grid.

      Government is currently providing initiatives such as free preschool, primary and secondary education, free bus fare scheme, free 250ml of milk for all Year 1 students and other forms of subsidies for students.

      The total funding for the education sector increased to $556 million in the 2015 National Budget which had an additional investment of $30 million compared to 2014.


    1. FMF Foods Limited CEO Ram Bajekal says they would like to see stability in policies when the 2016 National Budget is announced tomorrow.

      Bajekal has also stressed that they would also like to see an improvement in the fast-moving consumer goods sector.

      He says they would also like to see a lot more emphasis on infrastructure development so they can really take advantage of the position that Fiji is in at the moment of becoming an export and manufacturing hub in the Pacific.


    1. The Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation is hoping that the government will focus on consistency of policies when it announces the 2016 National Budget tomorrow.

      Chief Executive Officer Nesbitt Hazelman said some good policies have been brought in by the government over the past few years and this should continue.

      Hazelman said they have asked in their submission that corporate taxes, personal taxes and VAT should remain the same.

      Hazelman said the Federation has welcomed the road development in the Northern division and the Kings Highway.

      They now hope that zones are created with all the infrastructure ready for businesses to start developing the areas.

      Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2016 National Budget address in parliament tomorrow.

      Stay with us to find out the increases and decreases in duties and taxes and how public funds will be allocated in next year’s budget.


    1. The Ministry of Health has revealed that more health workers will be recruited and retained next year.

      Minister Jone Usamate is hoping that there will be an increase in the health budget.

      $1.8 million was allocated this year to recruit and retain an additional 200 nurses and 150 doctors.

      $2.7 million was also given to hire 91 additional health workers such as pharmacists and lab technicians and $1 million was allocated for in-service training of health personnel in the Ministry of Health.

      Usamate says this recruitment process has been progressing well.

      The Minister stresses that the overtime pay due for nurses will be paid out and they have not decided whether this will come from the 2016 Budget.

      Usamate says construction of the $17.5 million 55 bed Ba hospital is now 50 percent complete.

      Construction on the $5.5 million 10 bed low risk maternity unit in Makoi has been progressing well however several problems with contractors have caused delays.

      The extension of the CWM maternity unit is now in its final stages.

      This project involves the construction of a new 224 bed unit and $3 million was provided for this.

      Usamate has also revealed that other capital projects such as the $5.5 new Nausori hospital, $850,000 relocation of the Naulu Health Centre and the $200,000 upgrading of the Valelevu health centre are delayed at the moment due to several issues.

      The $6.5 million overhaul of the Lautoka Hospital Accident and Emergency Department is near completion.

      More than 8,461 Identification Cards have been distributed so far under the Free Medicine Scheme.

      33 private pharmacies are involved in the Free Medicine Scheme.

      $8 million was provided last year for the Free Medicine initiative.


    1. The President of the Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association Dixon Seeto says they are hoping that the marketing grant for Tourism Fiji increases in the 2016 National Budget.

      Seeto says they have made their submissions to the Finance Minister and the continuation of the marketing grant was one of the main submissions.

      Seeto says since 2008, the marketing grant has been $23.5m.

      Meanwhile, visitor arrivals from January to last month is 560,179.

      Total visitor arrivals for last year was 692,630.


    1. Close to 114,000 people are benefitting from the government’s Free Water Program and this number is expected to grow next year.

      Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had highlighted in the 2015 budget announcement that government will provide 91,250 litres of water free of charge per year from this year to Fijian households earning less than a total annual income of $30,000.

      There was a $99 million increase to the Water Authority budget for this year and a record budget of $239 million was allocated to the Water Authority.

      The Water Authority of Fiji has approved 22,868 applications for the Free Water Program while it is currently working on over 300 applications.

      Meanwhile, the authority is looking at reviewing its legislation exploring the idea of having a monthly billing system. It has also confirmed that a new validation system is in place which will trigger out all discrepancies in the water billing system.

      Furthermore, the Authority has replaced over 7,000 water meters throughout the country.

      The Authority says they target to replace 55,000 water meters this year which includes 20,000 in Suva, Nausori, Nadi and Lautoka.

      A number of other projects are also underway around the country which includes improvement and upgrade of waste water distribution system, water source and water treatment plants.


    1. Construction work of the co-generation project at the Rarawai Sugar Mill will start early next year.

      There was a plan for the co-generation project to kick off with a $US70 million line of credit secured with the EXIM Bank of India in the 2015 National Budget.

      Fiji Sugar Corporation’s Executive Chairman Abdul Khan says the ground work for the project has finished and the construction work will start early next year which will be completed in two years.

      The government also provided $5 million under the Sugar Development Program to plant 3,000 hectares of new crops this year.

      Khan says they have planted some crops however due to the prolonged dry weather condition, they were not able to plant at the level they wanted.

      There was also an increased allocation of $2.5 million for the upgrading of cane access roads, including drainage works, installation of culverts and construction of crossings.

      More initiatives for the sugar industry are expected to be announced in the 2016 National Budget this Friday.


    1. The Fiji Chamber of Commerce has requested for improvements in doing business in Fiji as part of its 2016 National Budget submission.

      Chamber President Peter Mazey says members have expressed their views on the struggles and frustrations of dealing with the government delivery mechanism.

      Mazey says during the chamber’s annual general meeting this year, challenges posed to the business and investment creation included inadequate activity in the capital market and the need to improve skills in the workforce.

      He says challenges such as government bureaucracy and its slow processes and the need to assist Small and Micro Enterprises in an effective manner.

      Mazey says they intend to increase their discussion with the government on policy formulation processes so that they can proactively contribute to the refining of policies affecting business.

      He adds this way, they want to create a thriving business and private sector which is the sign of a growing and healthy economy.


    1. Close to 5,000 children around the country are benefitting from the Child Welfare, Care and Protection program.

      This was announced in the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation’s 2015 National Budget.

      The Ministry was given $2 million for this.

      The Ministry also managed to provide shelters for beggars who were on the streets after constructing a Rehabilitation Center at Colo-i-Suva.

      Minister Rosy Akbar said that the Government has funded $100,000 so that more than 24 people can be trained and accommodated at the centre.

      The Ministry’s plan for next year will be known in the 2016 National Budget announcement this Friday.


    1. Major road projects which were announced in the 2015 National budget are on track to be completed as we await the announcement of the 2016 National budget this Friday.

      This includes the Nabouwalu to Dreketi road development and the Moto to Buca Bay and Sawani to Serea road.

      These road development projects are all funded by the EXIM Bank of China.

      It received a total funding allocation of $97.8 million.

      The Nadi to Lautoka 4-lane project which was also announced last year is nearing completion.

      83% of work has been completed on the 70km Nabouwalu to Dreketi Highway.

      It is being constructed by China Railway First Group.

      The Buca Bay Road project has been completed.

      The Fiji Roads Authority had received a budget allocation of $653 million for this year and this was an increase of $179 million from the 2014 budget.


    1. The Fiji Trades Union Congress does not want to make any comments on their expectations for the 2016 National Budget as they believe that the government needs to deal with things seriously if the budget is going to be meaningful.

      FTUC General Secretary Felix Anthony believes the government needs to provide necessary information that includes the previous audit reports.

      The 2014 Auditor General’s reports are yet to be tabled in parliament.

      The 2016 National Budget will be announced by the Minister for Finance Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in parliament this Friday.


    1. More than 15,000 senior citizens around the country are benefitting from the government's Social Pension Scheme this year.

      vThe Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation received an increase of $8 million in their budget to accommodate the social pension and monthly allowance scheme under the new eligibility age of 68 that came into effect this July where eligible people now receives $50 from $30 under the Social Pension Scheme.

      As announced in the budget last year the food voucher has increased from $30 to $50 with 2,324 new beneficiaries and people are now getting $60 under the Poverty Benefit Scheme.

      In other projects the Ministry was able to launch a National Child Helpline with the toll free number 1325 and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect awareness program where an MOU was signed between different NGO’s to assist needy people and $500,000 was allocated for this.

      This year’s National Women’s Expo at Vodafone Arena was one of the biggest achievements where 600 women were able to showcase their products and look for international markets.

      The Ministry was given $500,000 for the project.

      Details on the Ministry's work for next year will be known next Friday when the 2016 National Budget announcement is made in parliament.


    1. Minister for Youth and Sports Laisenia Tuitubou confirmed that they have received a lot of submissions from various sporting bodies and is happy with the approach of assisting the teams that are participating in the Olympic Games in Rio next year.

      Tuitubou said his Ministry has received submissions from various sports bodies and FASANOC.

      Tuitubou added that the tax rebates are on offer for corporate sponsors and they hope that this would ease the burden on many sports.

      Fiji’s best chance of an Olympic gold medal lies with the Vodafone Fiji 7s team and coach Ben Ryan has requested for $3 million to help prepare his side through the Fiji Rugby Union submission.

      The Fijiana team looks strong to qualify within three weeks time.

      If they do, they would be looking for at least $1.5 million for their preparation.

      They will be playing in the Oceania 7s qualifiers on November 14th and 15th which is after the budget announcement.

      FRU CEO Radrodro Tabualevu has already mentioned that the Fijiana would be assisted in all ways possible.

      In soccer, Fiji Football Association CEO Bob Kumar said that they are requesting for $2.1 million to prepare and take the soccer team to the Olympics.

      FASANOC has also asked for $2 million as well and their submission includes the minor sports which could qualify.

      Athletics and swimming would be taking two athletes each while Pacific Games gold medalist in Shooting Glen Kable is also looking to qualify.

      Judoka Josateki Naulu is competing in various circuits in Japan and is also aiming to qualify for the Olympics.

      Weightlifters have a chance when they host the Oceania Weightlifting in Suva in May next year.

      This year the Ministry of Youth and Sports was allocated $16.7 million.

      The National Budget will be delivered by Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum next Friday.


    1. All members of parliament are participating in a budget session in order to have a better understanding on how the budget documents work.

      Finance Minister and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum confirmed they had discussions with the Secretary General of Parliament to give all MPs a run down on how to read the budget and the work undertaken in the lead up to the formulation of the budget.

      Sayed-Khaiyum said following this session more healthy debate is expected.

      The 2016 National Budget will be announced on November 6th.


    1. The Fijian economy is poised for the 6th consecutive year of economic growth.

      Those were the words of Deputy Governor for the Reserve Bank of Fiji Ariff Ali while speaking at the Budget Forum at Grand Pacific Hotel.

      He says Tourism is strong so far in 2015.

      According to Ali, the forecast for his year in relation to visitor arrivals is a growth of five percent and the record that was achieved last year can be surpassed which was just under 700,000 visitor arrivals.

      He adds the tourism earnings this year will most probably be around $1.5 billion.

      He highlighted that sugar production is marginally lower than last year.

      He confirms the crushing started a week late, so to discount on the delay in crushing, the total cane crushed and sugar produced was a bit low.

      He also says cement production is up by 15.6% and electricity in the first seven months was slightly up by 2.2% and consumption up by 5%.

      He also says this is an indicator that construction activity grew by about 46%.

      Ali says there is a positive turnaround in gold production.

      He adds consumer spending remains strong and personal remittance is up by 35% for the first seven months of this year compared to last year.

      He says the personal remittance last year was $383m whereas this year it may reach close to $450 million.

      He says this is in a period where the world economy is not growing very strongly.

      He adds Pay As You Earn collection went up by 14.6% which is an indicator that more and more people are employed.

      Ali says bank lending for investment purposes went up by a massive 76% so far this year compared to same period last year.

      He says this year government expects to spend 40 cents of every dollar on capital and 60 cents on every dollar.

      He adds last year 66 cents went to operating expenditure while 34 cents to capital.

      He says prior to 2007, 15 percent of government expenditure went to capital and 85 percent was on operating expenditure including paying civil servants salary and taxes.

      He also says over a last couple of years our exports have increased from a billion to two billion dollars.

      He says this is due to the improvement in the sugar industry, increase export of garment, fish and timber.

      On the other hand he says our imports continue to rise as we need to import food, machinery and fuel which is close to worth $5 billion.

      Ali also says by the end of this month our foreign reserves will be $2.017 billion which is enough to cover five months of import.

      Meanwhile, Attorney General and Minister for Finance Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum highlighted in the forum that government’s focus as an administrative organisation is to improve efficiency.

      He says the advertisements for permanent secretaries are out and the Public Service Commission has outsourced the recruitment to an Australian based company.

      He says one specific area they would like to focus on is housing which is very-very critical.

      The Forum is being attended by the private and public sector, faith based organisations as well as the business community.


    1. Budget Public Consultations take place in North.

      Water supply, addition of new roads and upgrading the port of entry in Labasa were some of the issues raised by the North dwellers with the Attorney General, Aiyaz Saiyed-Khaiyum during the 2016 National Budget Public Consultations in Labasa.

      A resident from Vunika, Kansami Naicker told the Attorney General that the water pressure in his area is very low.

      Naicker said that they have raised this issue with the Water Authority of Fiji at the Labasa branch but nothing has been done.

      Saiyed-Khaiyum has assured Naicker that he will have a discussion with the Authority and will try to solve this problem as soon as possible.

      Meanwhile, the president of the Labasa Chamber of Commerce, Satish Chand raised the issue that there is a need of a back road in the Labasa Town.

      Chand told the AG that there is only one road to Labasa town which is used by both light and heavy vehicles.

      He said that there should be a separate back road for the heavy trucks which carries logs and sugar cane.

      Chand said the Labasa town main road has only two lanes and it gets jammed since more development is taking place and more rural dwellers are now moving towards town.

      Saiyed-Khaiyum said that Labasa is developing at a fast pace and indeed there is a need to address these issues.

      He said that he will look into the Northern development plans and will get back to a possible solution soon.

      Meanwhile, close to 45 people were present during the consultation.