13th November 02:26 PM
 
 
 
 
 
Budget Commentaries & Analysis:
 
 
Aliz Pacific
 
 
    1.  

      Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has announced some major programs in the 2018/2019 National Budget including extended maternity leave, new paternity leave, Family Care leave and insurance for civil servants and social welfare recipients.

      Maternity leave, Paternity Leave and Family Care Leave

      Sayed-Khaiyum says $5M has been allocated towards Parenthood Assistance Payment Program.

      $1,000 will be given to those mothers whose household income is $30,000 and below.

      This is for the first, second or third child.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says the moment the new born is registered in the Births Deaths and Marriages Office and issued a birth certificate, a new bank account will open in any participating bank in the mother’s name to receive the assistance.

      The first $500 will be given immediately to the mother and the second $500 will be in the bank earning interest and can be accessed when the child enters year 1.

      5 days paid paternity leave has also been introduced for Fiji.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says fathers in the country need to change diapers more to assist the mothers.

      There is also good news for mothers as paid maternity leave has been increased from 84 days to 98 days.

      Sayed-Khaiyum has also announced fully paid 5 days leave for Family Care.

      There will also be 150% tax deduction for businesses paying salaries to those employees during the time they take paternity and family care leave.

      This starts on January 1st, 2019.

      The Minister for Economy also confirms that today will be the final National Sports Day holiday because the other new leave will be introduced like Family Care Leave and Paternity Leave.

      Duties and Taxes

      Duty has been reduced from 5%t to 0% for imported fruit and vegetables.

      There is also a 32% increase in tax for carbonated drinks.

      Fiscal duty has also been reduced from 32% to 15% for motor vehicles that are less than 2-years-old.

      The plastic bag levy will be increased from 10 cents to 20 cents.

      The Minister for Economy has also announced that they are working towards complete ban of plastic bags by 2020.

      There will also be a 150% tax deduction to businesses for training their staff.      

      There will now be a $1.25M threshold for businesses who are currently paying Environment Climate Adaptation Levy and Service Turnover Tax.

      The threshold is aligned to the $1.5M for restaurants.


      TELS and National Toppers

      The government has expanded the National Toppers scheme for students with another 340 full time scholarships bringing the total number of scholarships to 970.

      Of these new scholarships, 20 will be awarded for overseas study and specialised courses that are not offered in Fiji including architecture, counseling, forensic science, genetic science, speech therapy, specialized education and town planning.

      20 Toppers scholarships will be awarded locally for students in the area of tourism, fisheries and forestry and those course work aligned with the national development agenda.

      5 scholarships will be awarded locally for students entering PHD Programs.

      The remaining scholarships are spread out amongst the existing priority areas under the Toppers Scheme that has already produced talented and accomplished young Fijians.

      This will be available from next year.

      $206M has been allocated to TELS in the next financial year expanding the reach of the program to over 25,000 students.

      There is more good news for TELS recipients as those that repay their loans more quickly under TELS are going to enjoy a major discount on their payment.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says depending on how fast you can pay you can have a 50% or 25% or 10% of your student debt erased completely.

      The Minister for Economy says based on what you owe you will have a full set of years to make your payments and enjoy these incentives.

      This means that the faster you pay your debt the less you pay overall.

      This is called Accelerated Repayment Incentives.

      Students will also receive statements on their debt position during and after their studies and they will soon be able to view the statements on their mobile phones through the Digital Fiji app.

      Under TELS, the students whose parents who were receiving $25,000 and below were receiving allowance and now the threshold has been increased to $50,000.

      Bus fare allowance has also been increased from $15 a week to $30 a week.

      $18.1M has also been allocated to 15 technical colleges around the country.


      Education

      The Education Sector has received the biggest budget ever.

      $1 billion has been allocated to the Education Sector.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says free education will continue but those who can pay the fees can pay any amount to assist in construction of schools in the maritime areas.

      The bus fare assistance program will continue as well as the free milk program for year 1 students.

      The scout program will start for the primary and secondary schools from Term 1 of 2019.

      The Accident Compensation Commission Fiji will now cover school yard injuries so that families of students hurt in school can benefit from a no fault payment scheme which will go towards the cost of their recovery.

      $5M has been allocated to recruit 200 primary school teachers and 50 secondary school teachers.

      This is to improve the teacher students ratio.

      50 full time scholarships will also be available to teachers with a set criteria.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says the school curriculum will be reviewed.

      It was earlier highlighted that they will look at having Learners and Advanced Maths in schools.

      New adult education will be offered by the Fiji National University.


      Health
      $382M has been allocated to the Health Sector.

      Ba and Lautoka hospitals are being upgraded.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says Ba hospital is about to be completed.

      Open heart surgery will be available 24/7.

      The Attorney General says real change is coming.

      A special program will also be set up for the benefit of the people in the health sector.

      The launch of the new General Practitioners program will start on 1st January, 2019.

      $11M has been set aside for the CWM Maternity Unit Hospital.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says it will be an international standard hospital.

      $2.5M has been allocated for the Valelevu Health Centre while $500,000 has been set aside for the upgrade of Korovou Hospital.

      There will be new dialysis treatment centres in Nadi, Suva and more dialysis machines.

      Dialysis treatment ‑ $75 per session for those with household income less than $30,000 while $150 per session for machines allocated by the government.


      Civil Service and Social Welfare Recipients
      A new insurance package has been announced for civil servants and social welfare recipients.

      Family Insurance for all social welfare recipients and civil servants, brings a package of protections that includes life, home and injury insurance.

      All premiums for this insurance will be fully covered by the government.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says the Performance Management System is now fully in place for civil servants.

      He says assessments are being carried out to reward high performing civil servants.

      The Minister for Economy says more pay rise is on the way for high performing civil servants.

      A Scarce Skills Allowance will also be introduced for the civil service.


      Free Bus Fare for Pensioners and People with Disabilities
      Persons with disabilities and pensioners will travel in buses for free.

      The government will pay the fares.


      Housing
      Good news for those looking to become first time home owners as households with a combined income below $50,000 will be eligible to receive a grant of $10,000 if they buy a house or $15,000 if they are looking to build a house.

      Government has introduced a subsidy for home loans for those first home buyers with a combined income of less than $40,000 who have financed their home loan through the concessional finance facility under the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

      Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says a new Ministry of Housing and Community Development will be set up with an aim to increase the home ownership rate in the country.

      They will also look at redesigning housing in Lautoka.

      The Government will work with Singapore on the designs.

      He says 11 development plans under the iTaukei landowners assistance are now underway.

      They hope more will follow.


      Multi Family Unit to be developed by FNPF
      The Minister for Economy has also announced that multi family units will be developed by FNPF.

      The government will sign an agreement with FNPF soon.


      Police
      600 police constables will be regularised. This also means they will get higher pay.


      2018 General Elections
      $20M has been allocated by the government to the Fijian Elections Office for the 2018 National Elections.


      Sugar
      A stabilisation price will be set up at $85 per tonne for the sugar industry.


      Free Wifi
      People can receive free high speed Wifi for 60 minutes everyday on a daily basis in certain areas around the country.

      These areas include My Suva Park, Sukuna Park, Sigatoka Bus Stand, Koroivolu Park in Nadi, Shirley Park in Lautoka, Ba Bus Stand, Korovou Market, Syria Park in Nausori, Labasa Civic Centre and Savusavu Market.

      $40M has been allocated to the ICT sector for increased speed in public Wifi hot spots in Fiji.

      This allocation will also allow for the installation of free high speed Wifi hot spots for all Fiji National University campuses in Fiji.

      $300,000 has also been allocated for the provision and improvement of internet services in secondary schools.

      While speaking during the 2018/2019 National Budget, Sayed-Khaiyum said that rubbish pick ups will be done everyday.

      This will start in Nasinu and will be rolled out to other areas soon.

      A new national competition to clean up Fiji will also start from next year.

      Fines will also be introduced for mobile companies who have prolonged down times.

      Sayed-Khaiyum has also confirmed that electronic transactions will no longer carry any fees when you swipe your cards at retail outlets.

      It has also be announced that the Fiji Roads Authority will work on a 4 lane road project from Nadi to Lautoka.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says the Ministry of Economy will also carry out regular checks on budget spending.

      Funds will be taken away if the Key Performance Indicators are lagging behind.


      Girmitiyas
      $500,000 will be allocated for the commemoration of the 140 years since the arrival of the first Girmitiyas to Fiji.

      A museum will also be constructed either in Lautoka or Nadi.

      Sayed-Khaiyum also says that most of the wholesale importers are no longer dictating market prices.

      He says they expect other importers to follow suit.


      Bold Budget
      Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says that they have another bold and historic National Budget. He says the budget is built on strong and stable Fijian families.

      He also says that they have empowered hundreds of thousands of people with new jobs.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says Fiji is running an operating budget surplus and they are only borrowing for capital projects.

      He says back in 1996, the then Rabuka government took a huge amount of debt to bail out the National Bank of Fiji deposits.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says now many of the voices are trying to tell lies.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says this is deeply concerning as the President has said that the Fijian economy is something that everyone should protect.

      He says this is not fair game.

      The Minister for Economy also says that they did not want to play Father Christmas and just say that they are giving everything away.

      He stresses that this is a true family budget.

      The total revenue forecast for the 2018/2019 National Budget is $4.236 billion while the total expenditure is $4.65 billion.

    1.  

      SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka says that there is nothing exciting about the $1 billion that has been allocated to the Education Sector.

      Rabuka says this is around 22% of the total budget, which is not the first time that percentage of the budget has been allocated to education.

      Rabuka says in 2004, 22.04 percent of the budget was allocated to the education sector.

      He says that under program budgeting rules, these amounts should be allocated to the proper ministry rather than lumping them together for education purposes.

      Rabuka says education is always a priority and as we progress, more and more resources will be allocated to education, health and infrastructure among others.

      He says the education system is currently in a shambles and reforms are implemented on an ad hoc basis with a lack of clarity and systematic approach.

      Rabuka says previously, teachers were given scholarships both locally and abroad.

      The SODELPA Leader also highlighted that there is nothing new or exciting about the family insurance as it was considered by both the SVT and SDL governments with assistance from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

      Meanwhile the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had earlier highlighted that they are focused on building a strong Fiji which means building a strong economic base.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says it is the job of the government to be able to provide an enabling environment.

      Meanwhile the 2018/2019 National Budget Debate will start in parliament today.

    1.  

      One notable initiative that will have a particular impact on the Nausori area is the specific allocation in the 2018/2019 National Budget dedicated to those living on un-surveyed land, many of whom have been there for 20 or 30 years.

      This was the message from Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the Maha Devi Temple in Vuci, Nausori during their annual pooja ceremony.       

      Bainimarama says the government has now moved to cover the cost of conducting land surveys, which will allow more Fijians to formally obtain registered leases.

      He says that this change will allow people to invest in the structures they can proudly call their own and use as collateral at banks.

      Bainimarama further states that while the nation has broken economic records under his leadership, when it comes to building vibrant and inclusive societies, a government can only do so much.

      Bainimarama further added that in the heat of the election year, some parties and candidates are openly encouraging people to vote along religious or ethnic lines.

      He says that religion and ethnicity should never be exploited to sow division and hate.

      Bainimarama says that it is an exciting time to be alive in the Nausori area and that he looks forward to continuing to bring the benefits of the nation’s unprecedented prosperity to each home, schools, and family.

    1.  

      SODELPA Leader, Sitiveni Rabuka believes that the 2018‑2019 national  budget is sugar coated, irresponsible and lacks vision for the long  term.

      Rabuka highlighted this in a press conference saying that the budget  does not care for the Fijian families as claimed by the Minister for  Economy.

      He says as a nation we are now in a situation where we have a lot of debt because we continue to live beyond our means.

      The SODELPA Leader says the presentation of the 2018/2019 Budget by the Minister for Economy creates a rosy picture of "empowering all Fijian families and laying out new and better economic opportunities which gives a lot of false hope to ordinary Fijians.

      Rabuka says while there are merits in increasing maternity leave from 84 days to 98 days and the introduction of the 5 days paternity leave, in addition to the other incentives, such as for first time home buyers, these are token initiatives, but civil servants want "job security"first before anything else.

      He says once there is job security, then these incentives will be more meaningful to them.

      Rabuka also stated that there is a better way of helping new home owners rather than giving handouts to a select few.

      However when questioned by Fijivillage on Rabuka's thoughts on the proud families who have became home owners under the first Home buyers grant, he says compared to today people have had to struggle to own a home in the past.

      Meanwhile, the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum had earlier stated that they have another bold and historic National Budget which is built on strong and stable Fijian families.

      He also says that they have empowered hundreds of thousands of people with new jobs.

      Sayed‑Khaiyum adds that there are also good initiatives for first home buyers.

      Sayed‑Khaiyum says Fiji is running an operating budget surplus and they are only borrowing for capital projects.

      He says back in 1996, the then Rabuka government took a huge amount of debt to bail out the National Bank of Fiji deposits.

      Sayed‑Khaiyum says now many of the voices are trying to tell lies.

      Sayed‑Khaiyum says this is deeply concerning as the President has said that the Fijian economy is something that everyone should protect.

      He says this is not fair game.

      The Minister for Economy also says that they did not want to play Father Christmas and just say that they are giving everything away.

      He stresses that this is a true family budget.

      The total revenue forecast for the 2018/2019 National Budget is $4.236 billion while the total expenditure is $4.65 billion.

    1.  

      The Water Authority of Fiji is allocated $5.2M to replace defective meters nationwide to reduce billing errors and improve water meter accuracy.

      5,365 meters will be replaced and 3,000 water meters will be newly installed in the Central, Western and Northern Divisions.

      Water Authority is allocated $2.5M for the installation and replacement of meters while another $2.5M has been allocated for the procurement of 285 electromagnetic flow meters and 10,000 domestic and commercial meters.

      $8 million was also allocated for the Non-Revenue Water Reduction Project which is aimed to fix leakages throughout the Water Authority of Fiji systems.

      In an effort to increase water distribution infrastructure capacity to meet the growing demand for safe drinking water, government has allocated $51.70M under the Water Distribution System Project.

      $2.43M has been allocated for the hydraulic mains improvement and for the replacement and duplication of aged pipes to reduce water loss.

      Meanwhile, 23,382 people will be benefitting from the Rural water Supply Programme and government has allocated $27M for this programme.

      There is a total of 38 Rural Water Supply projects in the Central Division, 15 in the Eastern Division, 27 in the Western Division and 53 in the Northern.

      Water Authority of Fiji has been allocated a total of $349.3m in the 2018/2019 National Budget.

    1.  

      Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they want to identify goat farms which supply meat to supermarkets because goat meat is very lean.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says there is a farm between Tavua and Ba and they already have 1,000 goats.

      He says this farm has been asked by New World Supermarket to supply them goat meat on a daily basis and in a professional manner.

      $200,000 has been allocated in the 2018/2019 National Budget for goat extension development to supply quality breeding stock to cluster groups and commercial goat farms.

      A further $1 million has been allocated to establish Fiji’s goat meat industry through the provision of services and infrastructural development, aimed to further improve the supply of affordable, quality meat to market.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says this funding is essentially to identify one or two companies that can really bring up the goat meat industry where they can supply to the supermarkets.

      We have sent questions to the Ministry of Agriculture in relation to the implementation of these new initiatives and the expected outcomes for the goat meat industry in the new financial year. A response is expected soon.

    1.  

      The National Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Felix Anthony has welcomed a number of initiatives announced in the 2018/2019 National Budget which includes the Parenthood Assistance Payment Program and Family Care leave.

      Anthony says the FTUC was advocating that maternity protection be in line with the ILO Convention on maternity protection and the announcement in the National Budget brings Fiji to be complaint with the ILO Convention.

      However, Anthony says there was nothing on the national minimum wage rate and he believes that this was a critical component of the National Budget that the government needed to concentrate on.

      We asked Anthony whether having a $4 national minimum wage rate will have a negative impact on small businesses as they may not be able to pay this rate and close down.

      Anthony says they do not have any intention of killing small businesses.

      In his National Budget address, Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum had stated that they can increase the national minimum wage rate to $5, $10 and $20 and then watch thousands of Fijians lose their jobs and over 100,000 Fijians in the informal sector be crushed by higher prices of goods and services.

      He says it was the Bainimarama government that instituted the national minimum wage for unskilled workers. He says they have increased the minimum wage twice since then to $2.68 an hour.

      Sayed-Khaiyum had also highlighted that they also have 10 sectorial wages councils which have higher wages than the national minimum wage rate.

      He says they have carried out a comprehensive review of that wage rate this year in consultation with an international expert and have gone to great lengths to make sure the review has been thorough, participatory, transparent and inclusive.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says they are helping families with education, water, electricity and purchase of basic goods and affordability of housing.

      He has stressed that they will continue to take the sophisticated approach and carry out regular reviews of the minimum wage without compromising the rights of workers, without undermining confidence of businesses and without costing hardworking Fijians their jobs.


    1. p>Consumers will benefit from this year’s budget, especially people who need dialysis.

       

      Consumer Council CEO Premila Kumar says people who need to have dialysis done three times a week at the cost of $250 per session will now pay much less.

      The Health Ministry was allocated $3.5 million to subsidize the cost of dialysis.

      Treatments will be offered at $75 for patients with household incomes of below $30,000 while those with higher incomes will now pay $150.

      Kumar says a lot of dialysis patients have been knocking on their door for help and now the reduced costs will give a lot more comfort to the families of people who need dialysis.

      She says consumers will also benefit from reduced tax on imported fruit and vegetables.

      Kumar says concessions that are given in an indirect form are more beneficial to consumers, for example pensioners travelling for free is an indirect concession.

      She says these kinds of concessions hit the consumers directly.

      Kumar says when it comes to traders, that is where the problem lies because often traders do not pass the reductions down to consumers.

    1.  

      The Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Peter Mazey says that the Chamber has welcomed the 2018/2019 National Budget in a positive way.

      Mazey says that not all employees take Paternity Leave, Family Care Leave and Maternity Leave, and the additional leave days has also been balanced with the removal of a public holiday and the 150% tax deduction.

      He also says that employees being given paid Family Care and Paternity Leave should be honest and not abuse it.

      Mazey says that the budget is forward looking and they are happy that infrastructure continues to get good funding as it is an area that Fiji is still catching up on.

    1.  

      Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they have managed to balance the cost to businesses by reducing the public holidays and having the 150% tax deduction after the introduction of the 5 days Paternity Leave and 5 days Family Care Leave from next year.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says Paternity Leave would mean that fathers would assist mothers in looking after their babies while Family Care Leave is important for people as they need to look after their family members who get sick.

      He says with the new leave days in addition to the employees’ annual leave, the 150% tax deduction is the major tax incentive provided to the employers.

       

      Sayed-Khaiyum says they know that Family Care Leave is required by the employees.

       

      Employers are now awaiting the Employment Relations Act amendments with all the necessary details like the requirements for Family Care Leave.

      Some employers are saying that there needs to be proper requirements in place as the Family Care Leave could be abused by people who may just use the excuse that their family member is sick but that may not really be the case.

      The 2018/2019 National Budget debate will start in parliament next Monday.

    1.  

      More than 70,000 underprivileged people are currently benefitting under a number of initiatives through the Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.

      The number of people assisted under the Poverty Benefit Scheme has increased to 26,023.

      The Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation says the Poverty Benefit Scheme targets financial support to low‑income households.

      These households receive monthly allowance from $35 to $127 and they also receive the monthly food voucher of $50.

      There have been 2,860 new approvals for Poverty Benefit Scheme between August 2017 and February 2018.

      There have been 2,561 terminations facilitated between August 2017 and February 2018 and the Northern division recorded the highest with 853 terminations over the last 7 months.

      Meanwhile, 37,494 people are benefitting from the Social Pension Scheme.

      This programme provides a social safety‑net for elderly citizens that are not receiving any form of Government assistance or pension support.

      The monthly allowance was increased from $50 to $100 while the eligibility age was reduced from 66 years to 65 years. Currently, there are 5,531 recipients under Care Protection Allowance.

      The numbers have increased by 14%.

      This program ensures that underprivileged children are provided with proper care and protection and is specifically targeted at single mothers, deserted spouses, widows, prisoner dependents, foster parents/guardians and children under the care of the State.

      2,597 people are benefitting under the Allowance for Persons with Disability.

      This is programme was introduced last year which provides a monthly allowance of $90 to assist people living with permanent physical disability.

      There are 1,143 recipients under the Voucher for Rural Pregnant Mothers Programme.

      These pregnant women in rural areas receive an allowance of $50 per month.

      The total budget for the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation in the 2018/2019 National Budget is $133 million.

    1.  

      Minister for Employment Jone Usamate says the ministry is satisfied with the budget in terms of what it had set out to do.

      The Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations received $16.7M, an increase of $200,000.

      Usamate says there is good news for employers who would like to train their staff.

      Usamate says they have had a lot of discussions with the Ministry of Economy and they are glad to see the provisions that have already been set out for their corporate plan for the 2018/2019 year.

      He says the budget as a whole has a lot of things around families and for the betterment of Fijians.

    1.  

      The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Parveen Bala has highlighted that most of the areas that they have asked for in the national budget was allocated to them and this will improve the Ministry’s service delivery. 

      Bala says that they were very careful in selecting which projects to be funded so that they can deliver what they can.

      Bala says they have been allocated money for the development of parks and municipal markets.

      The Ministry for Infrastructure and Transport is allocated $165.2M in the 2018-2019 national budget.

    1.  

      Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa says she is very pleased for the initiative where pensioners and Fijians living with a disability travel for free in buses.

      The Ministry has received a total budget of $133 million, which has increased by $19.8 million.

      Vuniwaqa says now the responsibility is on them, the Permanent Secretary and the Ministry to ensure that the budget is put to the use that its been given for and that the benefit does flow down to those who actually need it.

      She says she had no doubt that the Permanent Secretary is ready to do that work with the team at the Ministry.

      Vuniwaqa says apart from the increase in maternity leave , she wants paternity leave highlighted over and over again. She says that is very critical for the nation which is a recognition of the role that men play in the unpaid care economy.

      She says this area has always been reserved for women. She says she wants Fijian men to take up that critical role.

    1.  

      600 police constables will be regularised. This also means they will get higher pay.

      The Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho says the increase in the budget allocation for the Fiji Police Force to $193.5 million is positive.

      Qiliho says that they are happy about the $24 million which was allocated for Phase 1 of a five year phase program which includes the regularization of Special Constables.

      Meanwhile $2 million dollars has also been allocated for the Fiji Police Force to fund operations during the conduct of the 2018 General Election operations.

    1.  

      Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says that the 2018/2019 National Budget is bold, imaginative, comprehensive and sets us up for a wonderful year.

      While opening of the 59th Annual Sanatan Convention at Samabula Primary School this morning, Bainimarama says that he is proud of what government has achieved in regards to education.

      The Prime Minister acknowledged the great work the Sanatan community are doing to help build the nation especially in the fields of education and social welfare.

      He also spoke on the convention’s theme for this year ‘Addressing Climate Change Through Moral Values’ saying that it is not often that we see the climate threat being cast as a moral challenge but, today it is.

      He says that the budget is built on many of the programs his government has instituted over the years.

      Meanwhile, government allocated more than $651M to address the climate threats.

      Bainimarama also highlighted the industrial nations promise in Paris, to mobilise $100 billion a year in public and private finance climate vulnerable nations like Fiji by 2020.

    1.  

      The Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa believes that the 2018-2019 budget is an elections budget and the opposition will have to look at the figures in terms how it will affect the people.

      While responding to Ro Teimumu’s reaction about the budget announcement, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said Ro Teimumu may not be sure about what she is saying about the budget.

       

      NFP
      National Federation Party whip Prem Singh says the budget does not come as a surprise as it is an election budget.

       

      Police
      The Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho says the increase in the budget allocation for the Fiji Police Force to $193.5 is positive.

      Qiliho says that they are happy about the $24 million which was allocated for Phase 1 of a five year phase program which includes the regularization of Special Constables.

      Meanwhile $2 million has also been allocated for the Fiji Police Force to fund operations during the conduct of the 2018 General Election operations.


      Transport Ministry
      The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Parveen Bala has highlighted that most of the areas that they have asked for in the national budget was allocated to them and this will improve the Ministry’s service delivery. 

      Bala says that they were very careful in selecting which projects to be funded so that they can deliver what they can.

      Bala says they have been allocated money for the development of parks and municipal markets.

      The Ministry for Infrastructure and Transport is allocated $165.2 million dollars in the 2018-2019 national budget.


      Waterways Ministry
      The Minister for Waterways and Environment, Dr. Mahendra Reddy has assured the people of Fiji in particular the people living in flood prone areas. 

    1.  

      Minister for Economy and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the 2018/2019 National Budget is about Fijian families.

      He says they have increased maternity leave and also introduced paternity and Family Care Leave.

      Sayed-Khaiyum adds that there are also good initiatives for first home buyers.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says that there will also be looking at reviewing the national school curriculum.

    1.  

      The Consumer Council says more needs to be done to ensure that the taxes and duties that are reduced in the 2018/2019 National Budget are passed down to the consumers.

      Year in year out there have been cases of government announcing tax and duty reductions but people have continued to raise concern that retailers are not dropping the prices to reflect the reductions.

      This is an ongoing issue and even the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has raised concerns on this in the past.

      Council CEO, Premila Kumar says if the government wants to ensure that the price reductions are passed down to the consumers then it should put those items under price control.

      Meanwhile the use of false impressions to hype property buyers and sellers by certain real estate agents has drawn the concern of the council. 

      Kumar says they understand there are certain agents who deliberately manipulate property prices by using pressure selling tactics and other gimmicks to get higher prices for commission.

      She says a lack of authority given to the Real Estate Licensing Board to oversee sales and purchases of properties in the country allows the issue to fester. 

      Kumar says a Real Estate company had claimed to list the most number of properties on the market but only 10 out of 68 advertised properties had marked prices.

      The council also found some properties had already been sold but were still advertised to give an impression that the company had a large market share. 

      Kumar says the council found that some companies had solicited bids through an auction with no supervision into how the offers are managed.

      This raised doubts on whether the auction actually occurred or if it was a scheme to manipulate prices. 

      The council also established that some property advertisements did not disclose the type of land and in some cases even the location was not given, defeating the purpose of the advertisement. 

      The CEO says the real estate sector in Australia and New Zealand  sets a very good example which Fiji can benchmark against.

      They have an online ‘one stop shop’, where a person has access to important information such as: properties recently sold in a particular suburb/locality; price ranges or actual price of property being sold, which can enable them to know the price range; features of properties that is being put on the market and; the agent brokering the deal. 

      Kumar says Fiji can take a cue from this by adapting the system to meet our needs. 

      Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2018/2019 National Budget in parliament from 7.30pm tonight.

      Stay with us to find out how the budget will affect your pockets and the government’s ministerial allocations to provide services to the public.

      We will have all the details on which taxes and duties go up or down and how it will affect you.

    1.  

      The Consumer Council of Fiji has appealed to Government to develop a National Health Scheme to ease the pressure on the public health systems and provide quality health care to all Fijians.

      Council CEO, Premila Kumar says a National Health Scheme and Insurance is important to the Fijian health care system to help take the pressure off public hospitals and allow the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to provide specialised services. 

      As part of the 2018‑2019 National Budget submission, the Council has requested to Government to develop or adapt a Health Care Scheme that will provide an affordable insurance scheme for FNPF members even after they retire. 

      Kumar says the Council notes that the public health system, especially public hospitals are currently under enormous pressure to deal not only with non‑life‑threatening and basic ailments but also serious health issues where treatments are not available locally. 

      The Consumer Council says many Fijians cannot travel abroad for specialist treatment and it is crucial to develop specialised treatment locally.

      Kumar says local specialist care will assist in early detection and treatment, and consequently better outcomes and higher life expectancy for Fijians that suffer from serious or life‑threatening ailments and injuries. 

      She says the Council notes that the Health Care Scheme/Insurance needs to take it’s cue from the Special Death Benefit Scheme of the Fiji National Provident Fund operating as a small scale insurance scheme for members when they die.

      Kumar says sadly, the members are contributing to an insurance cover for their death, but not for their life. 

      The Consumer Council CEO says the National Health Scheme can be supported by contributions from employees, employers and the Government.

      The contribution can be based on the pay structure and be kept by FNPF for mandatory health care based on the Singapore model.

      Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2018/2019 National Budget in parliament from 7.30pm tonight.

      Stay with us to find out how the budget will affect your pockets and the government’s ministerial allocations to provide services to the public.

      We will have all the details on which taxes and duties go up or down and how it will affect you.

    1.  

      SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka says if there is an announcement of an increase in the national minimum wage rate for unestablished workers in the National Budget, it will bring joy to the nation.

      Rabuka believes that the government will increase the minimum wage rate.

      He says that as SODELPA leader, he will look forward to see how the different taxes will be implemented and where the government will be getting their revenue from.

      He adds that he will be interested to know the expenditure allocations of government as he is not fully versed with the allocations and implementation of the current budget.

    1.  

      The Fiji Teachers Union is hoping that steps are announced in the 2018/2019 National Budget to reduce the teacher to pupil ratio to 1:30.

      FTU General Secretary, Agni Deo Singh says in composite classes which is mostly in rural areas where one teacher is teaching two classes, they want the teacher pupil ratio to be 1:15.

      Singh is asking the Ministry of Education to increase the in-service training budget so that teachers who have been teaching for a number of years can be provided with scholarships to upgrade their qualifications.

      He adds that they want a full restoration of executive teacher positions in primary schools.

      Singh says that executive teachers are senior teachers who also have the role to assist the head teachers by providing professional guidance to new recruits and younger teachers in primary schools and they get an allowance of $2000 per annum at the moment which FTU is asking the Ministry to increase.

      FTU’s General Secretary is also asking the Ministry to establish counselor positions in all secondary schools as there is a serious problem with behavioural management of secondary school students which results in teachers imposing corporal punishment and losing their jobs at the end.

      He adds that they are asking for an increase in the location allowance for teachers serving in rural schools to $2000 per teacher and $3000 per teacher in maritime schools.

      Singh says they want the ministry to increase boarding allowances and to also increase the entry point salary of Certificate, Diploma and Degree holders which is currently between $19,000 to $22,000.

      He says they want the certificate level entry teacher’s salary to be $20,000, diploma level entry salary to be $23,000 and the degree level entry salary to be $28,000.

      Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2018/2019 National Budget at 7.30pm tomorrow.

    1.  

      As we get ready for the 2018‑2019 National Budget announcement tonight, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has assured the people of Fiji that the government will again be building on the opportunities they have already created for Fijians to prosper and continue with the infrastructure development that has transformed the nation's prospects.

      Bainimarama made these comments while opening the Ba Provincial Council Meeting and says that tonight, his right hand man, the Attorney General and Minister of Economy will deliver the 2018‑2019 Budget Address.

      He says much development has been in the Western division and rightly so, given their importance to the overall health of the national economy, especially through tourism and sugar.

      Bainimarama says the achievements in the last 4 years includes the new Nadi Airport terminal, the Namaka to Denarau highway, and private partnership that will also transform the Lautoka hospital and provide a new range of medical services.

      The Prime Minister says that government is bringing new development opportunities to iTaukei landowners by funding infrastructure works in various subdivisions.

      He says out of the 11 approved national projects so far, nine are in the West, and seven of those are in the Ba Province.

      Bainimarama says he has a quiet chuckle when he sees some of the slogans of political opponents like "Leadership that listens".

      He says they do not even listen to each other, let alone the people, and are constantly fighting amongst themselves.

      Bainimarama says he does not even know who the opposition leader really is, and certainly does not know how a political party that can't even govern itself thinks it can govern the country.

      The Prime Minister says then there's another slogan that says "Change is Coming".

      He says that it is going to be a very long time coming, because nothing has changed with these people, the constant carping but no fresh ideas about how to take Fiji forward, despite four years in the political wilderness and all the chance in the world to get their act together properly.

      He says they have evidence that some of these political parties are trying to sow division and exploit ethnicity and religion for their own purposes.

      Bainimarama says in the case of one of them, some of its politicians are going around the vanua telling people that the government has sold Fiji to the Chinese.

      He says one of the MPs has been passing around an ancient photograph of Australian aborigines in chains and saying that will soon be the fate of Fijians.

      The Prime Minister says they are actually being asked in government if it is true that they have sold Fiji to the Japanese, because for some of these people, all Asians look the same, and it would be a joke if it wasn't so serious.

      Bainimarma says he will set the record straight once and for all and says that there is no chance whatsoever of a Chinese takeover in Fiji as we owe China only 10.6% of our total national debt and they are not in the position to take over anything.

      He says there is no chance of a Muslim takeover in Fiji as less than 5% of Fijians are Muslim so they are not in a position to take over either.

      Bainimarama says Fijian Muslims, like every other citizen ‑ are an integral part of our nation.

      He says they not only belong but are greatly contributing to our nation's development and that includes the Attorney General, who more than anyone else, has delivered the unprecedented economic growth we are now enjoying.

      The Prime Minister says the Attorney General is his trusted partner and friend, and he knows more than anyone how hard he has worked with Bainimarama over the past 12 years for Fiji and for the advancement of all our people.

      Bainimarama says they are a team and a great team.

      The Prime Minister says Sayed‑Khaiyum’s religion and his religion have never influenced the way they do their jobs.

      He says they work closely together for the advancement of all Fijians, irrespective of religious affiliation or ethnicity.

      Bainimarama says both these political parties know all this is true but they think the Fijian people are stupid enough to be hoodwinked.

      SODELPA and NFP are yet to comment.

    1.  

      Students will be eagerly waiting for the budget announcement tomorrow to see if issues that were raised by them during the consultations have been addressed in 2018/2019 National Budget.

      The budget consultations held around the country by the Minister for Economy early this year had targeted youth to gauge their opinions and suggestions on issues they want to be addressed.

      During the consultations, a student of the University of the South Pacific had asked Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed‑Khaiyum if the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Board could provide students under the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme updates of the money they are getting every semester.

      Sayed‑Khaiyum had responded that the government has given the board $2 million to invest in an IT system that will allow them to give financial statements to students every six months.

      Some students of the Fiji National University had raised concerns that the university did not have well‑qualified lecturers and said that they were concerned that lecturers with only degree qualifications were teaching honors programs.

      During various consultations, students had talked about problems they faced with accommodation and learning equipment, the need to increase the number of lecture rooms at FNU Campuses, the need to have more cleaners and accreditation for engineering courses.

      A student had asked if the government would consider making tertiary education free for those from poor backgrounds.

      Sayed‑Khaiyum had responded that making tertiary education free is something the government cannot afford to do at this stage.

      During the consultations in March this year, a student of Naitasiri Secondary School had raised serious concerns that their school which is situated in the interior had not received text books.

      Sayed-Khaiyum had told the students that at the end of last year, he had a meeting with all the officials of the Ministry of Education and told them that everybody must have a textbook on the first day of school this year and that officials from the Ministry of Education had told him that it was done.

      He had also taken notes from other students who had also said they had not received textbooks.

      Another student from Naitasiri Secondary School had suggested that a Technical College be opened in Naitasiri as many students from there want to go into vocational studies.

      In another consultation, a student of Suva Muslim College had raised concerns on why there is a need for Year 12 and 13 students to submit handwritten projects three times.

      Sayed-Khaiyum said that the education system in Fiji needs to be reviewed.

      A USP student had suggested that the government set up English Learning Centres to teach English as many students had difficulty with the language.

      Sayed‑Khaiyum had told the student that her suggestion was very urban centric but it is true that the level of English in schools is a concern.

      He said they are planning to use Walesi to introduce programs that will help people learn how to properly write and read the English language.

    1.  

      The Fiji Nursing Association is hoping to have a special budget for specialised nursing groups in the various fields of nursing as all the nursing posts have just been advertised.

      Fiji Nursing Association's General Secretary, Salanieta Matiavi says they are hoping to get a budget for the re-engagement of retirees especially the specialised nurses like midwives with the new facilities being constructed.

      Matiavi also highlighted that nurses make up 60% to 70% of the workforce in the Ministry of Health and they should be allocated a training budget on their own to cater for training at divisional health facilities.

      Meanwhile nurses received a salary increment of up to 14.3% while nurse practitioners received up to 74% increment in the current budget.

    1.  

      Government has announced that the Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy has generated a total of $110.6 million as at 30th April, 2018, exceeding the estimated amount of $94 million.

      Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while delivering the 2017/2018 national budget last June said that government would remove the Environmental Levy, and replace it with the Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy at 10%.

      A total of 46 projects have been funded by the Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy with the most funds of $63.77 million directed at Infrastructure development.

      The Infrastructure Development projects include the upgrading of rural roads, jetties maintenance and renewals and the upgrading and replacement of bridges.

      Other major projects that were funded by the Environment and Climate and Adaptation Levy include, rural housing assistance, upgrade of informal settlements, maintenance of meteorological facilities and equipment, cane access roads, food security programme, upgrade of Colo-i-Suva Forest Park, cyclone rehabilitation of Levuka World Heritage Structures, ongoing rehabilitation and construction of schools destroyed by TC Winston, ground water assessment and development of small and large islands and disaster risk and climate change adaptation fund. 

      Meanwhile, Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed‑Khaiyum will deliver the 2018/2019 National Budget at 7.30pm tomorrow.

    1.  

      The National Federation Party believes in the concept of a minimum living wage that will give individuals the income level that will allow them to make ends meet at a reasonable level and have a decent living.

      When asked on what NFP wants in this week’s budget announcement, NFP Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says they will be revealing what they want in the budget in their budget response.

      He says that NFP has already proposed that when they come into government, they will institute a minimum living wage of $5 an hour because they believe that anything less than that in the formal sector is tantamount to oppressing the workers of the country and those that are struggling to make ends meet.

      The national wage rate for the informal sector is $2.68. There are also ten separate industry wages councils with varying minimum wage rates for the different sectors.

    1.  

      The Fiji Sports Commission is hoping to get the full amount of funds that they have requested for in the 2018/2019 National Budget.

      After their submission to the Ministry of Economy, Fiji Sports Commission Chairman Peter Mazey says that they have a lot of focus towards sports development next year.

      Mazey says that requests submitted for the major overseas trips include the 2019 Netball World Cup in the United Kingdom in July, the Special Olympics going to Abu Dhabi, the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians preparations towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan in September, Team Fiji preparations for the Pacific Games in Samoa and the Youth Olympics.

      Mazey adds that Fiji will be hosting some major sports next year including the Weightlifting World Junior Championship in Suva, the Under 20 East Asia Pacific World Cricket Qualifier and the Australian National Rugby Championship.

      Since it’s inception in 2013, Mazey says that the Fiji Sports Commission have received approximately $32 million from the government as grants to various sporting bodies.

      He believes that the government support towards sports development is a big factor in Fiji always being ahead of other Pacific island nations.

      The Fiji Sports Commission has also requested for assistance towards their short term development in bringing specialists to train local coaches, referees and strength and conditioning coaches.

      Mazey confirms that the cricket and rugby league are the only sporting bodies who have applied for international coaches.

      Meanwhile the Commission through the Ministry of Youth and Sports received $9 million dollars from the 2017/2018 National Budget.

    1.  

      Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says that people can expect a responsible budget next week and has labeled National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad’s comments that it will just be an election budget, as a ridiculous statement.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says that government is focused on building a strong Fiji which means a strong economic base.

      He says they have spoken to every Fijian and they want the same thing which is improved living conditions.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says the job of the current government is to be able to provide an enabling environment but the Opposition wants to undermine all of that.

      Meanwhile Professor Prasad maintains that the government will have an election budget.

      Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2018/2019 National Budget at 7.30pm next Thursday.

    1.  

      Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has said that the 2018-2019 National Budget is set to be the widest reaching and most inclusive national budget in Fijian history.

      In a statement, Sayed-Khaiyum says many of the landmark programmes and allocations announced last year in the 2017‑2018 National Budget will be expanded, alongside a slate of new programmes and funding priorities that will have a direct and powerful impact on the lives of every Fijian.

      He says this budget will be like all of the others, totally focused on the prudent management and growth of the Fijian economy.

      The Minister for Economy says it will also be people focused, as all of the budgets have been, especially assisting the vulnerable members of our society.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says the hallmark of the FijiFirst Government has always been the consistent and sound management of the nation’s finances, and that has set Fiji up to achieve the longest running period of economic expansion in our history.

      He adds that means there are more resources at our disposal than ever before, and that is going to lead to some very exciting new policies and allocations in the upcoming budget.

      The 2018‑2019 National Budget is set for announcement on the 22nd of this month.

    1.  

      The Office of the Speaker of Parliament has confirmed that the government had requested for a change in the date for the 2018/2019 National budget address which is now set for the 28th of this month.

      In a response to questions by Fijivillage, the Office of the Speaker of Parliament says the government had requested for the change and the Speaker of Parliament approved it.

      The speaker also says that members of parliament are given  a week to examine and prepare responses to the Budget and in that respect the budget debates will be held from Monday 9th July to Friday 13th July, 2018.

      Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said earlier that the 2018-2019 National Budget is set to be the widest reaching and most inclusive national budget in Fijian history.

      Sayed-Khaiyum says many of the landmark programmes and allocations announced last year will be expanded, alongside a slate of new programmes and funding priorities that will have a direct and powerful impact on the lives of every Fijian.