No great hope for Fijians in budget, says economist

No great hope for Fijians in budget, says economist

  BY AQELA SUSU , Fiji Times News – 12/06/19



AN economist believes the 2019/2020 National Budget is not giving any great hope for the people.

University of the South Pacific senior economics lecturer Dr Sunil Kumar says he does not see anything tactical in the national budget announced last Friday.

He noted that the Government was taking measures on climate change and a green economy, which he said were “good things any Government is supposed to do”.

“The whole world actually is moving in that direction, towards addressing the climatic issues but there are some faults that you know on policy matters that came around in the last three or four years the Government could have addressed, they could have taken broader views had they taken the advice of experts in terms of how to address their economic issues,” he said.

“I think the day-to-day problems faced by the ordinary people would remain the same. They are having day to day difficulties in terms of having foodstuff and basic needs, they would remain in trouble.”

Dr Kumar said the Government was addressing some sectorial issues, but claimed that most of them were bandaid treatments to the problems.

“I would say to the people to take all those with a pinch of salt, the fact of the matter is that people would have to start organising themselves, businesses would have to work harder, people would have to work harder if we were to do any better than what we are doing.

“There are fundamentals that are going wrong which the Government would have to work hard to straighten.”

He said there was no doubt there were global issues, but Government needed to be honest about the Fijian economy.

“Countries like China, the United States, Britain, and Europe — they can make adjustments, they are huge countries, but we are very small, absolutely small and our adjusting process could be very painful and particularly when the productive sectors in our economy are declining.”

In his budget address last Friday, Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said while we must remain cognisant of current global realities, we should take comfort that the Bainimarama-led Government has proved its merit in maintaining positive economic momentum.

He said despite the whims of larger economies, despite the shifting whims of global markets, the FijiFirst Government had chartered 10 years of sustainable, resilient and responsible economic growth.

“We have made the progress despite continuing partisan efforts to crush our progress and the weight of lies and pessimism. We have cut through those fronts of fearmongering and fogs of falsehoods and carried our economy to record breaking success, because this Government has inspired belief in Fiji’s true potential,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

However, Dr Kumar said Fiji’s survival in the global environment could be very difficult.

“We will have to make very hard decisions and in terms of productive sectors, there has to be specific policies to drive different sectors.

“If we were to make serious adjustments or change course, Government would have to get down to make policies specifically for different sectors and look forward towards those initiatives.

Sugar is kind of gone, I would not really love to say that, but it is going.

There are high value crops that Fiji must start thinking about.

“It’s not just going to come like that — Government would have to incentivise to bring resources together and get some kind of critical mass in terms of you know organising the farmers and all that.

“We have things like ginger; we can grow pineapples and things like that. No specific policies — that’s the problem.

“There are some incentives given for investment, which does make sense, but still Government has to be very specific. It has to identify economic agents businesses, the kind of people who can actually invest, get them by the hand and get them into those sectors at the moment there are too many constraints.”