2022-2023 National Budget Debate

2022-2023 National Budget Debate

By fijivillage
Friday 29/07/2022
[Photo: Parliament of Fiji]

The 2022/2023 National Budget Debate full coverage.


AG says if it was a draconian Act, they would have used it to stop publication of Fiji Times and CFL daily for being biased

NFP labels Media Act as draconian
By Navitalai Naivalurua
Friday 29/07/2022

Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says not a single media organisation has been prosecuted under MIDA for supposedly having editorial problems.

Sayed-Khaiyum says yet the narrative by the Opposition in particular by National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad is that it is a draconian Act.

Speaking on the Media Industry Development Budget Amendment Bill, Professor Prasad says the Bill is like the Government sidelining somebody for going against the Government.

He says this Bill is also not good for media freedom in the country.

He adds it is misplaced and should be withdrawn as it has nothing to do with the budget as well.

The Media Industry Development (Budget Amendment) Bill 2022 has been passed in Parliament this afternoon.



We understand a media organisation in Fiji is circumventing the foreign ownership section of the Media Act – AG

Media Bill passed in parliament
By Vijay Narayan
Friday 29/07/2022
[Photo: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji]

Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says a media organisation may circumvent the current Media Act by allowing a foreigner or foreign company to carry out it’s operations through a side arrangement or make decisions which can actually mean anything from what is published, broadcast, who is hired and who is financed.

While tabling the Media Industry Development (Budget Amendment) Bill 2022, Sayed-Khaiyum says they understand this is already happening with an organisation in Fiji where they are circumventing the foreign ownership.

Section 38 of the Media Act provides that in the case of a company, all directors of a media organisation must be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji. In the case of any other legal entity, the person or persons with analogous powers in a media organisation, must also be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.

Up to 10 percent of the beneficial ownership or interest in the nature of ownership of a media organisation is allowed for any foreign person holding such shares or interests while 90 percent of any beneficial ownership of shares or any other interest of the media organisation must be owned by Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.

The Bill amends the Act to prohibit a media organisation from entering into any agreement which allows any other person from managing the affairs or operations of the media organisation without the prior approval of the Authority.

It says this would ensure that control of a media organisation remains with the media organisation.

The Bill amends the Act to ensure that those who are directly in charge of a media organisation and its operations are shielded from any outside influence that may, by formal agreement or other arrangement, essentially take over or control the provision of services.

These services deal with the day-to-day operations of the media organisation including its finances, staffing, productions or publications.

The Bill also amends the Act to require a media organisation to notify the Authority where any such agreement exists and to provide details of the agreement in order to verify and ensure that the media organisation’s operations are not in any way unduly influenced.



Pharmacists can now own as many as 5 pharmacies instead of 2

By Dhanjay Deo, Shanil Singh
Friday 29/07/2022
[Image: File Photo]

Pharmacists can now own as many as 5 pharmacies instead of 2 as the Act to amend the Pharmacy Profession Act 2011 has been passed in Parliament.

The Bill also allows for a registered pharmacist to expand his or her business wherever pharmacy services are needed and to allow for greater certainty in business practice, the Bill extends the period of authorization and license up to 5 years.

While opposing the Bill, National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says what is likely to happen is that the bigger pharmacies can have a complete monopoly on the pharmaceutical industry and destroy any competition.

Prasad says we know who these people are and majority of them are supporting FijiFirst and he knows their names.

He says many pharmacists already operate multiple pharmacies and the spouses of the owners of 2 such pharmacies have been closely linked with FijiFirst in the last 8 years through donations.

In his right of reply, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the Bill has nothing to do with donations and Professor Prasad is politicizing the issue.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the Bill is aimed at creating a competitive environment and provide services to the members of the public.

Assistant Minister for Employment, Productivity, Industrial Relations, Youth and Sport, Alvick Maharaj says if a group of pharmacists are working together to open a chain of pharmacies, they are not breaking the law as they are only working smartly. He says for decades, registered pharmacists in Fiji could only own two retail pharmacies while the pharmaceutical industry around the world has evolved to be the leading economic sector.

Maharaj who also owns a pharmacy says the industry should have lobbied for this way back to ensure small players could have level playing field but certain people in authority in the industry were continuously trying to crack down on bigger operators.

According to the Bill, the Board consists of registered pharmacists operating their own pharmacy businesses and by allowing the Board to determine what and where pharmacy businesses may operate, as well as giving the Board access to the details of the operations of pharmacy businesses, the Act has created a system where some competing pharmacists have an unfair advantage over others.

It says this is not a system which is conducive to fair and dynamic competition in this market and as such, the Act seeks to transfer the business and market control role of the Board to the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The proposed amendment seeks to transfer business and market regulation from the Board to FCCC to provide for accountability and transparency and to avoid any conflict of interest which may arise during the running of a pharmacy business in Fiji.

The Bill also seeks to increase the number of pharmacies a registered pharmacist may own from 2 to 5, to allow for a registered pharmacist to expand his or her business wherever pharmacy services are needed. Furthermore, to allow for greater certainty in business practice, the Bill extends the period of authorization and license up to 5 years.



Bill to allow for the importation, possession, cultivation, sale and supply of industrial hemp passed in parliament

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 29/07/2022
[Image: File Photo]

The Illicit Drugs Control (Budget Amendment) Bill which seeks to amend the Act to pave the way for the establishment of the industrial hemp industry in Fiji, has been passed in parliament.

Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says industrial hemp is a lucrative and largely untapped resource in the global economy due to popular misconceptions linking it to Marijuana.

He says Hemp and Marijuana both derive from the Cannabis sativa plant but they are cultivated differently, possess different chemical attributes and are used for different reasons.

Sayed-Khaiyum says a defining difference between the two is also the level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in industrial hemp.

THC is the psychoactive substance that produces the “high” associated with smoking Marijuana.

He says industrial hemp contains less than 1% of THC and, as such, cannot be used as a recreational drug in the way that Marijuana is used.

Industrial hemp is one of the most versatile crops, with more than 50,000 uses including food, nutrition, personal care, health and wellness, paper, textiles, building materials, medicines, pet bedding, plastic alternatives, biofuels, and energy.

Sayed-Khaiyum says it has immense potential for the Fijian economy.

The Bill amends the Act to remove industrial hemp and all of its extracts with no more than 1% THC concentration from the list of illicit drugs to allow for the importation, possession, cultivation, sale and supply of industrial hemp.

All other forms of Cannabis remain an illicit drug.



Bill tabled to repeal the Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Act 2014 passed

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 29/07/2022
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

The Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) (Repeal) Bill which seeks to repeal the Act, has been passed in parliament.

Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says there is no longer a need to designate events or have the same event broadcast on channels from all free-to-air television broadcasters as Fijians can now use Walesi to view an event.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Act 2014 was earlier enacted to ensure that designated events are broadcast on free-to-air television for the benefit of all Fijian viewers.

He says many Fijians did not have access to subscription television or channels from all free-to-air television broadcasters and were only receiving channels from one or two free-to-air television broadcasters depending on where a person lived or what kind of antenna a person had available.

He says therefore, the Act ensured that anyone who had access to at least one of the channels from a free-to-air television broadcaster was able to view coverage of designated events.

Sayed-Khaiyum says with the implementation of Walesi and the mandatory analogue to digital switchover, every free-to-air television broadcaster has 100 percent coverage throughout Fiji through terrestrial, satellite and over-the-top means which allows Fijians to view all channels from the free-to-air television broadcasters using Walesi.



Parliament passes 11 budget consequential bills

By Rashika Kumar
Friday 29/07/2022
[Image: File Photo]

Parliament has passed 11 National Budget consequential bills.

These bills included the Tax Administration Act 2009, Income Tax Act 2015, Value Added Tax Act 1991, Customs Act 1986, Customs Tariff Act 1986, Excise Act 1986, Superyacht Charter Act 2010, Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Act 2014, Insurance Act 1998, Veterinary Surgeons Act 1956 and Fisheries Act 1941.

While tabling the bills, Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the Income Tax Act is being amended to remove the concessionary rate of 17% for international or regional companies relocating their headquarters to Fiji and increases it to 20%.

He says the Customs Act is amended to allow any person engaging in business of forwarding cargo on board a ship or a cargo without a license commits an offence and liable to conviction.

Sayed-Khaiyum says a lot of people are becoming agents ad hoc but there is a need for people to be licensed as there have been cases of people using services provided by these organizations who disappear overnight and their goods gets lost.

These freight forwarders have been given until the end of August to obtain the license.

While speaking on the amendment on the Excise Act, Sayed-Khaiyum says an import of excise of 5% will now be imposed on the importation of new diesel or petrol passenger vehicle, fiscal duty rate of 5% will apply on the importation of new hybrid passenger cars and fiscal duty on used passenger vehicle, either diesel, patrol or hybrid will increase by $1,000 per unit.

He says import VAT will not apply to importation of pure electric power supply buses, passenger cars and motor bikes. Superyacht Charter Act is amended where the definition of “superyacht” to decrease the minimum length of a superyacht from 24 metres to 18 metres and to decrease the charter fee from $USD55,000 to $USD30,000.

Amendments to the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Act 2014 is done to allow for the change of name of the Act from “Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Act” to Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Service Act”.

It also allows removal of the the Secretariat and provide for the appointment of the CEO who can then appoint employees of the Service.

Changes to the Insurance Act provides a maximum license term of 5 years for a license issued to a person to carry on a business as an agent for an insurer.

Amendments to the Veterinary Surgeons Act provides for the registration of persons as veterinary surgeons.

Changes to the Fisheries Act 1941 provides that a fishing vessel used for trade or business is to be registered and the registration is renewed annually.

Sayed-Khaiyum says for a licence to be issued to fish in a registered customary fishing grounds, a permit issued by the Commissioner of a Division is first required and the permit is granted for a period not exceeding 3 years, but expires on 31 December each year.

He says the Commissioner will first consult the customary fishing owners before issuing the permit.

The Minister says the process of applying for a licence or permit every year and of the renewal of the registration of a fishing vessel annually can be time consuming and creates administrative and logistic difficulties and as a result, a fisher may not have a lot of opportunities to secure bank loans and to invest in their fishing business due to the short period of a licence or permit granted.

This causes a hindrance to fishers who wish to operate their fishing business to earn their livelihood so the bill seeks to amend the Act to give certainty and allow for more investment, particularly in terms of securing bank loans in which providing for a longer tenure for a licence, the registration of a fishing vessel, and the Permit, will encourage investment in commercial fishing business.

The bill also amends the Act to clarify that, a Permit granted to fish in a customary fishing ground will only be granted by the Commissioner upon consultation with the customary fishing owners.

The requirement for consent from the customary fishing owners further reinforces the current practice and strengthens and protects the rights of customary fishing owner.



Heated debate in the budget committee of supply on Tikoduadua’s motion to reduce the public service broadcast for TV by $3 million

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 28/07/2022
[Photo: Parliament of Fiji]

There was heated debate in the budget committee of supply today when National Federation Party MP, Pio Tikoduadua moved a motion to reduce the public service broadcast to FBC TV by $3 million in the next budget as the Attorney General said that this is a political gimmick from NFP and the annual reports of FBC are presented to parliament and the committees go through them.

Tikoduadua had said that the $3 million should not be given until FBC presents all it’s annual reports as the last one was for 2017.

Sayed-Khaiyum says Tikoduadua knows the reports are coming to parliament, and only FBC is being picked on, not other entities who have not given their reports.

SODELPA MP, Ro Filipe Tuisawau supported the reduction, saying these are public services, what is the value of services in terms of money and quality, and why has not this TV service been tendered.

Sayed-Khaiyum says Ro Filipe is a hypocrite. He says Ro Filipe was on the committee when FBC appeared before them and he knows full well that the value of air time is worth over $20 million.

He also says there is also one radio station that provides AM, and that is FBC.

The Attorney General then told Ro Filipe that “ÿou are saying let’s give it to CFL which is your recent lackey so that people of Lau won’t be able to hear them.”

He says they are now trying to invest in Walesi so FM can be available to everybody which will include CFL and other stations. He says in the meantime, there is only AM.

Ro Filipe then said that they are talking about TV here not radio as the subject of the motion was TV. He says there is another TV station and it should be tendered out.

In terms of value for money, Ro Filipe says that value is the perspective of FBC executives. He claims it is not an independent valuation.

Sayed-Khaiyum says Ro Filipe is obfuscating the issue.

National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad and Sayed-Khaiyum also clashed on the issue of balanced coverage.

Minister for Defence, Inia Seruiratu says two budgets ago, the SODELPA Leader, Viliame Gavoka moved the allocation to be increased after the presentation by FBC.

He says the NDMO works with the organisation.

Seruiratu also says let us not forget government’s social responsibility. He says as much as they want FBC to operate as a commercial entity, the government can operate at a loss because of it’s social responsibility.

The Minister says we all know where the arguments are coming from and this is being personalised.

Tikoduadua’s motion was defeated in parliament.



We have outsourced work before, CFL ran the story without getting comments from us - AG

fijivillage sent questions in Feb and a follow up in May however there was no response
By Shanil Singh
Thursday 28/07/2022
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they have outsourced work before too when they had lawyers in the Solicitor General’s Office and Communications Fiji Limited decided to run the story yesterday without getting comments from them.

National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua had questioned in the budget committee of supply yesterday as to which allocation the Office of the Attorney General is using to pay R.Patel Lawyers for legal representation.

Qereqeretabua says she asked the question because almost all legal cases involving the Government is being handled by R.Patel Lawyers, specifically Devanesh Sharma and Gul Fatima.

When asked by fijivillage, Sayed-Khaiyum says CFL did not bother to report the fact that they still outsourced to Adish Narayan and various other people even when former Solicitor General Sharvada Sharma was there.

He says CFL is completely complicit with this.

fijivillage confirms that we sent questions to the Attorney General and the Acting Solicitor General on 15th February 2022 and then sent follow up questions on 17th May 2022.

They did not respond.

The issue was covered yesterday when it was publicly discussed in the committee of supply in parliament.



WAF welcomes announcement on licensing of plumbers

By Alipate Narawa
Thursday 28/07/2022
[Photo: Supplied] Students undertaking plumbing training at the Fiji National University’s College of Engineering, Science and Technology workshop.

The Water Authority of Fiji has welcomed the announcement by the Minister of Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on the licensing of plumbers during the 2022/2023 National Budget.

CEO, Dr Amit Chanan says that plumbers provide an essential service in Fiji’s society, and the quality of their work underpins the safety of our homes and commercial buildings.

He says they are grateful to this provision, and this is something that they have been working on for some time as it is very critical to have qualified and certified licensed plumbers in Fiji.

Dr Chanan adds that the necessary training facilities and examinations for Fijians who want to apply and get certified in this trade will be facilitated by the Fiji National University.

FNU Chancellor and Chair of Council, Tessa Price adds that the plumbers’ license will integrate and replace the waterworks fitters’ license and drain layers license previously issued by Water & Sewerage Department and the Municipal Councils respectively in the past.



Prasad asks if allocation for purchasing aluminium boats is vote buying while AG calls him an ‘obtuse human being’

By Rashika Kumar
Thursday 28/07/2022
[Photo: Parliament of Fiji]

National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad has asked the Government if the allocation of $300,000 for purchasing aluminium boats for the Eastern Division is a vote buying exercise while Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says Prasad is so attuned to the elections in their little conspiratorial box that everything is about elections and votes.

Sayed-Khaiyum says Prasad is an obtuse human being and he and his other two stooges on NFP constantly make crass, flippant comments.

He says it is a stupid comment to make.

The Minister adds the allocation is for the Ministry of Fisheries to do their work to support fisheries extension in the Eastern Division.



Some schools are struggling to carry out maintenance of toilets, windows & pathways – Ro Filipe

By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 27/07/2022
SODELPA MP, Ro Filipe Tuisawau

SODELPA MP, Ro Filipe Tuisawau says schools like Rewa District School and Burebasaga District School are struggling to carry out basic maintenance to toilets, windows and pathways while some schools are now buying their own furniture and looking for donations.

He stated this while tabling a motion to increase the free education grant for non-government primary schools by $5 million.

The current allocation is $35 million.

While speaking in the budget committee of supply, Ro Filipe says some primary schools do not have enough funds to carry out urgent repair works.

He adds Burebasaga District School and Nakelo District School grounds also need to be upgraded and maintained as they are being used for Skipper Cup and other competitions.

He says it is an extra burden on school committees.

Minister for Education, Premila Kumar says there is provision for virement if funds are left in any of the areas of allocation.

The motion was defeated.




Qereqeretabua questions whether $50,000 is enough for surveillance operations as drug dealers are exploiting our EEZ

By Zodelle Bhan
Wednesday 27/07/2022
National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua

National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua has questioned whether the $50,000 allocation for maritime surveillance centre operations is enough as the Police Commissioner has recently said that Fiji does not have enough manpower to fight hard drug dealers that sell methamphetamine and cocaine by exploiting our exclusive economic zone.

Minister for Defence, National Security and Policing Inia Seruiratu says they have a huge maritime zone and they have challenges.

He adds $50,000 will be used for payments for software allowances because they have marine traffic AIS system, flight guard Pro AIS satellite coverage and VMS license.

He says this does not only apply to Fiji Navy but other agencies as they are centralising their maritime surveillance operations.

Seruiratu says this includes air rescue, land rescue and sea rescue.

He says this is a big change since 2018 when the incident occurred in Labasa involving the plane as it was a difficult task trying to co-ordinate.

Seruiratu says that is why there is a need for different software because land, sea and air rescues are being coordinated from one centre.



We will find money for USP if an independent investigation is conducted - AG

By Shanil Singh
Wednesday 27/07/2022
[Photo: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji]

We will find the money to provide funding to the University of the South Pacific if they go ahead with the independent investigation in respect of the matters identified by the Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee.

This has been stressed by the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum who says they will be happy to provide the funding after the results of the investigation is out.

SODELPA Leader Viliame Gavoka then said we are telling the whole world that USP is not important to us.

Gavoka says the perception we are creating is very dangerous and it is mind boggling that we can just turn our backs on an institution like USP.

He questions how we can be so careless.

Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau told Gavoka that he should only discuss what is in the budget and if USP is not there, then it should not be discussed.




Proposed increase in Turaga ni Koro allowance defeated in parliament

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Wednesday 27/07/2022
Ro Filipe Tuisawau

SODELPA MP Ro Filipe Tuisawau’s motion to double up the budget for Turaga ni Koro allowances under the Ministry for iTaukei Affairs was defeated in Parliament this afternoon.

While speaking during the budget committee of supply, Ro Filipe says the allowance should be doubled because the Turaga ni Koro is becoming a full time job.

SODELPA Leader Viliame Gavoka also shared the same sentiments while supporting the motion to increase the allowances for the Turaga ni Koro.

Responding to Ro Filipe, Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the Turaga ni Koro were paid $75 in 2016 and they increased it to $100 per month.

He says they have also taken the initiative to pay for District Advisory Councillors as they work closely with the Turaga ni Koro.

The Minister also highlighted that 130 whales tooth or tabua were confiscated by the iTaukei Ministry.

According to Sayed-Khaiyum, there are 1,218 Turaga ni Koro in Fiji and additional funds will be provided for the allowance of 45 new Turaga ni Koro that will be appointed in the new financial year.



Complaints lodged against supermarkets for not complying with wages regulation

By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 27/07/2022
[Photo: File]

40 supermarket branches are currently being investigated for non compliance of wages regulations which includes non payment of minimum wage rate, overtime, meal allowance and annual leave.

While speaking during the committee of supply, Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says complaints have been lodged against these companies and investigations have started.

He says the number of cases are expected to increase with the implementation of revised national minimum wage rate.

He also reveals 10 data entry clerks are calculating wages arrears for backlog cases of 25 security companies.

Sayed-Khaiyum told the parliament that a new expenditure allocation of $201,845 has been made for the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations to look into these cases.



Qereqeretabua asks which allocation is being used by the AG’s Chambers to pay R Patel Lawyers

By Shanil Singh
Wednesday 27/07/2022

National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua has questioned which allocation the Office of the Attorney General is using to pay R.Patel Lawyers for legal representation.

The Attorney General’s Chambers has been allocated $5.2 million in the 2022/2023 National Budget which includes $3.3 million to pay for the staff.

After being asked by Qereqeretabua, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the $3.3 million funds the salaries of 80 established positions, of which 71 are filled.

Sayed-Khaiyum says these are lawyers and other staff as well.

Qereqeretabua says she asked the question because almost all legal cases involving the Government is being handled by R.Patel Lawyers, specifically Devanesh Sharma and Gul Fatima.

She says there should be enough experience in the Solicitor General’s Chambers which the taxpayers pay for.

Qereqeretabua says the same law firm has represented the FijiFirst.



Ro Filipe’s motion to have an independent audit and set up a duplicate count centre defeated in parliament

AG says Ro Filipe is a joke
By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 27/07/2022
[Photo: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji Facebook]

A motion by SODELPA MP, Ro Filipe Tuisawau to allocate an additional $1 million to the Fijian Elections Office to have an independent audit and set up a duplicate count centre has been defeated in parliament.

While speaking in the budget committee of supply, Ro Filipe says $500,000 should be allocated for an independent audit of the Fijian Elections software systems including the algorithms set up to check whether the rules incorporated in the computer systems are accurate, credible and transparent.

He says the other $500,000 should be for a duplicate count centre to be managed and staffed jointly by opposition parties.

Sayed-Khaiyum asked Ro Filipe to read the reports saying the elections have been credible.

National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad supported Ro Filipe’s motion. He says we should have an independent inquiry on whether these independent bodies are independent.

The motion was defeated.

The Fijian Elections Office has been allocated $16.937 million in the next budget.



Qereqeretabua’s motion that the amount under the Small Grants Project under the PM’s Office be reduced to $10,000 defeated

By Naveel Krishant
Wednesday 27/07/2022
NFP MP Lenora Qeqeretabua and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

National Federation Party MP, Lenora Qereqeretabua’s motion that the amount of $1 million under the Small Grants Project under the Prime Minister’s Office be reduced to $10,000 was defeated in parliament today.

While speaking during the committee of supply stage, Qereqeretabua claimed that this could be used for vote-buying.

While responding to Qereqeretabua, Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says these funds are used to provide assistance to deep rural schools that need it and other initiatives for communities.

The Minister for Economy also highlighted that they have reduced the allocation for this.

Sayed-Khaiyum also told Qereqeretabua to listen when explanations are provided.



Fijian civil servants deserve a pay rise - Leawere

By Krishneel Nair
Wednesday 27/07/2022

SODELPA MP Mikaele Leawere says there are civil servants that need an urgent pay rise.

While opposing the 2022/2023 National Budget, Leawere says in the last one and a half decades of the Bainimarama interim and elected government, Fiji has sky rocketed with a public debt burden, the highest unemployment rate in the history, unprecedented cost of living, worst health care and medical services, poor public infrastructure and poorest index on human development.

Leawere says teachers are passionate about their work, they don’t drink grog all night and sleep the next day, which is an insult to hard working teachers.

He requests to show teachers a bit of sense and give them a pay rise, which is long overdue.

While responding to Leawere, Minister for Education, Premila Kumar says everyone knows not all teachers drink grog and it is not a concern if they choose to drink grog after school.

Kumar says the only concern is when a teacher, after drinking grog, doesn’t turn up to school or while on duty, disappear to their quarters for a nap.

She says the topic was discussed at length at the Fiji Principals Association meeting, where principals were told to be more vigilant with the teachers as complaints were received from parents and school management committee members.



This budget is the product of an arrogant, out of touch and deceptive government – Tikoduadua

By Naveel Krishant
Wednesday 27/07/2022
NFP President and MP Pio Tikoduadua

The 2022-2023 Budget is the product of an arrogant, out of touch and deceptive government that has based its more than 15 years of military and parliamentary democracy rule on dictatorship, fear and lies.

This was the claim by NFP President and MP Pio Tikoduadua while opposing the budget.

Tikoduadua says he is saying this because this is possibly the last budget to be brought to Parliament by the FijiFirst Government before it is dissolved for the elections.

He says this government has created Fiji into an animal farm where the chosen few and a business cabal get the pie while the people are fed crumbs.

The NFP President highlighted that the NFP and its leader have been branded as lying by the silent 25 for labeling this as a saqamoli budget.

Tikoduadua adds this will be the legacy left behind by this cruel and heartless FijiFirst government when it is booted out by the people at the polling booths.



Heated debate between Prof. Prasad and AG in Parliament

By Shanil Singh
Wednesday 27/07/2022
National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

There was a heated exchange in Parliament this morning between the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad after Sayed-Khaiyum read out an anonymous letter regarding allegations of abuse of office at USP.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the letter mentioned about corrupt practices.

He also said that the Samoan Prime Minister had dinner at Professor Prasad’s house along with some other people however he adds there is nothing wrong with that.

Professor Prasad then raised a point of order and said that Sayed-Khaiyum should not use his parliamentary privileges to defame people who are not in Parliament to defend themselves.


Speaker of Parliament Ratu Epeli Nailatikau says the issue of USP has come up so many times and all the Attorney General is doing is addressing some of those issues through what is written in the anonymous letter.

However Prasad maintained he gets a lot of anonymous letters too and if we allow those standards in Parliament then it will be a free for all and Ratu Epeli should tell Sayed-Khaiyum to refrain from doing that.

Ratu Epeli says Sayed-Khaiyum has the right to do that.

Sayed-Khaiyum says no names have been mentioned except for one person and he is not saying that the person has done anything wrong.

He says unfortunately for Prasad he is very personally linked to USP.

Professor Prasad then went on to say that Sayed-Khaiyum is the Minister for Communications and his brother is the CEO for FBC.

The Attorney General says FBC is not under investigation.

He says FBC does not get the kind of grant that USP gets and that is the point of difference.

The Fijian Government has so far withheld $78.4 million grants to USP.

FBC has been allocated $10.3 million in the next budget.



Every single independent institution will be under threat by any other political party that comes into Govt - AG

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 27/07/2022
Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has warned the Fijian public that if FijiFirst is not in government, the alternative government will be made of people who he claims will systematically undermine all independent institutions.

While giving his Right of Reply in the 2022/2023/National Budget debate, Sayed-Khaiyum says any other party will do this.

Sayed-Khaiyum also says SODELPA Leader, Viliame Gavoka is a weak leader unlike the FijiFirst Leader.

He also says iTaukei land was alienated in Fiji not by Indo Fijians but the European settlers.

Sayed-Khaiyum says it was alienated by the colonial government.

He says most of the budget analysis by the Opposition was personalised.

Sayed-Khaiyum called on them not to romanticize the past.

He says the Opposition have come to the chamber with the view that anything that is presented by the Government must be opposed irrespective of whether the policy is good.

The Attorney General says many people in this country left after 1987 not because of economic reasons. He says they left because they felt there was no justice. He says people now feel there is a sense of justice.

Sayed-Khaiyum says Gavoka said he will increase taxes for companies to 28 percent and foreign companies will pay 33 percent.

He says many of the island resorts are foreign owned so he wants the owners and staff to know that their corporate tax will be 33 percent.

The Attorney General says Gavoka has said that he was going to get WAF and other industries to pay water resource tax so WAF’s tax will be funded by the government as the government funds WAF.

He says the Opposition have a formula but they fail tell what it is.



Minister for Economy is spending well beyond our means – Ro Teimumu

By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 27/07/2022
SODELPA MP Ro Teimumu Kepa

SODELPA MP, Ro Teimumu Kepa says most housewives know that when it comes to purchasing for their families’ needs, they must remain within their budget and cannot afford to develop bad habits like that of the Minister for Economy where he is unable to control the national budget and ends up spending well beyond our means.

While opposing the 2022/2023 National Budget, Ro Teimumu says the difference between Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s budget and the budget of ordinary housewives is simple.

She says housewives can only spend their own money and they watch every dollar and cent.

Ro Teimumu says the funds Sayed-Khaiyum has at his disposal is not his own personal funds but belongs to the taxpayers of Fiji as it mainly comes from taxes and penalties imposed on the people. She says this is why Sayed-Khaiyum has to be more responsible and accountable where he cannot afford to be careless and reckless when it comes to spending.

She has questioned why does the government vehicle leasing has to be renewed almost every year and why do some government ministers need to have more than one ministerial vehicle.

Ro Teimumu says government leased vehicles cost $82,191 per day.




The Opposition does not care for the vulnerable people – Usamate

By Naveel Krishant
Wednesday 27/07/2022
Minister for Infrastructure and Meteorological Services, Lands and Mineral Resources Jone Usamate. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

The comments of the Opposition have shown their true colours and they do not care for the vulnerable people of the country.

This was stated by Minister for Infrastructure and Meteorological Services, Lands and Mineral Resources, Jone Usamate as he supported the 2022-2023 National Budget.

Usamate says the Opposition says over and over again, the Government needs to look at the plight of the vulnerable and they belittle what the Government is proposing to address the issues that they raise.

He adds the Opposition refers to the Government’s past policies to help the vulnerable as freebies.

Usamate says if the Opposition says that the support to the vulnerable is a freebie, they are saying that it is something that should not be given.

He further says the budget is appropriate and not only does it address the issues of today but also sets Fiji on the course to full recovery.



Bulitavu supports National Budget

Kuridrani tells Bulitavu to cross-over
By Navitalai Naivalurua
Wednesday 27/07/2022
SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu and SODELPA MP Inosi Kuridrani. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

SODELPA MP Inosi Kuridrani told Parliament that the Opposition stand is to criticize the budget and if party member Mosese Bulitavu does not, he should cross over.

Kuridrani highlighted this when he raised a point of order as Bulitavu was responding in support of the 2022/2023 National Budget.

Bulitavu says some of the initiatives and programs highlighted in the budget should be commended as they will assist people during these challenging times.

He says initiatives such as the lifting of the bechedemer ban, the inflation mitigation package, the first home buyers grant, the first land grant program and a 10% reduction in the bus fare will assist Fijians.

He adds many opportunities are available through the budget that will assist people and bring more money into their household income and also more food on the table.

The SODELPA MP says the budget will also ensure landowners move away from only becoming passive land providers and receiving leases but also becoming developers.

He adds this will empower iTaukei landowners, improve their economic status and accelerate them in the business sector.

Kuridrani raised a point of order, saying that Bulitavu is being irrelevant as they are Opposition members and they have the chance to criticize the budget.



iTaukei MPs should be concerned as villages are getting empty due to the Pacific Labour Scheme - Waqanika

AG says Waqanika has lied in parliament
By Krishneel Nair
Wednesday 27/07/2022
SODELPA MP Tanya Waqanika and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

SODELPA MP, Tanya Waqanika says our iTaukei Members of Parliament should be concerned as villages are becoming empty due to the Pacific Labour Scheme and she asks who will attend to the village activities and look after the families that are left behind.

While opposing the 2022/2023 National Budget, Waqanika says she has heard of the rhetoric unprecedented economic growth and yet the Government is so proud of facilitating Fijians for fruit picking, when the Australians choose not to partake in that work.

Waqanika says the Australian Government has announced Permanent Residency for the seasonal workers which includes their families and this could lead to a sharp decline in the iTaukei population.

She asks for the past 16 years why hasn’t the FijiFirst Government developed Fiji’s own growers, so Fijians could be employed in Fiji and strengthen food security.

She then questions an increase in the general population by 56 percent between 2007 – 2017, based on statistics which states a decline in the Fijian population of iTaukei and Indians.

A point of order was raised by Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum as Waqanika said Indians, which needed clarification.

Waqanika then refuted that she said Indians leaving, however, Sayed-Khaiyum raised the second point of order saying she lied to Parliament.

He says all citizens of Fiji are Fijians.

The Minister for Economy says only Fijian citizens are given an opportunity to work under the Scheme and not the people from India.

Waqanika says it’s fair to say the increase in the population is from new citizens and ethnicities in our nation, who are taking up jobs of Fijian citizens and the information is not being disclosed to the public.

Waqanika adds she is urging everyone to vote in this year's general election.

She says in 2018 there were 637,000 registered voters, however, only 458,000 voted on polling day.

She says she doesn’t know what the Bula Boom is all about as the Government debt stands at $9.1 billion, which the people today and those yet to be born will have to bear.



Professor Prasad’s contribution was not worth even 20 cents – Maharaj

By Reginald Chand
Tuesday 26/07/2022
Assistant Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Alvick Maharaj

Assistant Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Alvick Maharaj says National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad’s contribution in the budget debate was not worth even 20 cents.

Maharaj says the so called economist aiding and abetting Biman Prasad went further to compare Fiji’s economy to what is happening in Sri Lanka.

He adds Sri Lanka went out of foreign reserves, corruption was at level high however Fiji is in a very stable position having foreign reserves to import for more than 8 months.

He says while the economist was criticizing government for borrowing money during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fijian government acted smartly and borrowed ofshore in order to increase the foreign reserves.

Maharaj says Sri Lanka was not in a position to service their debts, Fiji on the other hand has not defaulted a single repayment during the pandemic.



How many budgets in a year does an economy of less than a million people need – Qereqeretabua

AG says there is nothing wrong in reviewing the budget
By Shanil Singh
Tuesday 26/07/2022
National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua says the FijiFirst Government has lost the elections with this budget and has questioned how many budgets in a year does an economy of less than a million people need.

While opposing the budget, Qereqeretabua says apart from it being a saqamoli budget, many of the social protections on offer are only for 6 months when a budget is supposed to run for 12 months.

She says in his budget address, Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that this is what the special revised budget is all about and it is about what is next for Fiji.

Qereqeretabua questions if this is not an annual budget, given that we just had one in March.

When questioned by fijivillage, Sayed-Khaiyum says these are unprecedented times and there is nothing wrong in doing a review.

He says Qereqeretabua has made fun of that situation and questioned if we are still going to maintain the current budget if the war in Ukraine expands in the next 6 months.

Sayed-Khaiyum says some people are rigid and think it is a joke.

Qereqeretabua also says Sayed-Khaiyum claims that his budget will grow our economy and it will create the jobs and opportunities that every Fijian deserves to have in their lives.

Qereqeretabua says she struggled to see any indication of specific details of how his Government intended to do that in the Estimates and the Consequential Bills.

She also says the budget address was riddled with references to debt and it was just a shameless salesman pitch about “dinau” as if it is something to aspire to.

Qereqeretabua adds the nation's fortunes is dependent on the roll of the dice of one man who controls our future and the future of our children who will inherit the debt.



Govt will not impose stringent public health restrictions just because Fiji has some cases of COVID and measles – Health Minister

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Tuesday 26/07/2022
Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete

The Government will not impose stringent public health restrictions just because Fiji has some cases of COVID-19 and measles in recent weeks according to Health Minister, Doctor Ifereimi Waqainabete.

With some people having tested positive for viruses that cause hand-foot and mouth disease, chicken pox and COVID-19, the Health Ministry is working with international partners in monitoring other micro-organisms that are becoming a threat to the people.

Doctor Waqainabete says some countries are battling an outbreak of measles or Monkeypox but Fiji is lucky to have safety protocols in place.

He says the people being investigated for hand-foot and mouth disease are stable and they are waiting for their results which were sent overseas.

Dr Waqainabete says there is also an ongoing battle between communicable and non-communicable diseases in the country.

According to the Health Ministry, 169 new COVID cases were reported since Thursday, while some have tested positive for viruses that cause hand-foot and mouth disease or chicken pox, which are diseases that also cause a rash similar to Monkeypox.



Report says Grace Road continues to receive a warm welcome from the Fijian Govt, AG says he has not heard about the organisation that has done the report

By Vijay Narayan, Shanil Singh
Tuesday 26/07/2022
Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

A latest investigative report says that despite repeated accusations of abuses, including alleged ritual beatings, Grace Road has received a warm welcome from the Fijian government.

The report is done by Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). It is a consortium of investigative centres, media and journalists operating in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Central America. It was founded in 2006 and specializes in organized crime and corruption.

However when questioned on the report by the Fijian media, Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says he has not heard about the organisation that has done the report. He says if you want to talk about corruption, you need to look at the UN reports and Transparency International, they are credible organisations.

He also says there is no report done on pastors from faith based organisations raping members of their congregation here.

Grace Road operates the country’s largest chain of restaurants, controls roughly 400 hectares of farmland, owns eight supermarkets and mini marts, and runs five petrol stations. Its businesses also provide services such as dentistry, events catering, heavy construction and Korean beauty treatments.

The report says the Fijian government had assured the South Korean police and the people of Fiji that they would pursue the case, but have not pressed any charges against Grace Road Church. Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde has told OCCRP that though they travelled to South Korea as part of a joint investigation following the 2018 arrests, police did not find enough evidence to justify prosecution.

However, OCCRP and KCIJ-Newstapa say they were able to establish that, on their trip to South Korea, Fijian officers spoke to key witnesses — who described alleged beatings and other abuses they suffered at the hands of some of the very same sect members who had been arrested and let go in 2018.

In August 2018, a team of 17 South Korean police officers flew to Fiji on a secret mission: to take down the leaders of the Christian doomsday sect accused of taking away its adherents’ passports and subjecting them to ritual beatings.

The roughly 400-strong group, known as the Grace Road Church, had moved to the Pacific Island nation from South Korea several years earlier.

Under the charismatic leadership of Reverend Ok-joo Shin, they came to believe the world was heading for nuclear war and that Fiji’s tropical islands would be a safe haven where they could carry out their “unprecedented biblical reformation” to revive Christianity.

Reverend Shin — who styles herself the “Spirit of Truth” — had been arrested at Seoul’s main airport just a few days earlier as she arrived to visit her homeland on charges including assault, child abuse, and imprisoning church members.

The report also claims that the group has taken loans from the Fiji Development Bank, a state-backed institution set up to develop the country’s economy.

We have sent questions to Police, the FDB, the Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Immigration and at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Grace Road for clarification. We are yet to get a response.

Click here for Grace Road In-depth



It is another smoke and mirrors trick – Salote Radrodro

By Alipate Narawa
Tuesday 26/07/2022
SODELPA MP Salote Radrodro. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

SODELPA MP, Salote Radrodro says the Minister of Economy has come to parliament with this budget just like previous ones, and it is another smoke and mirrors trick.

While opposing the 2022/2023 National Budget, Radrodro says it is another attempt to hoodwink the people of Fiji, and for this one it is simply a grandstanding, electioneering budget targeting instant gratification and short term benefits rather than sustainable economic recovery.

She says this budget just like previous ones are covered in a blanket of deception, fancy words, and big figures only to make the people feel good.

Radrodro asks about the capital projects that have been promised since 2015.

Radrodro adds that one just has to go past the CWM Hospital to see the deplorable condition that our biggest hospital is in.

She says every year we hear of budgetary allocations for repair and maintenance works for CWM Hospital, but nothing substantial has really changed.



The 2022\2023 National Budget has been described as one of the outstanding budgets - Joseph Nand

By Zodelle Bhan
Tuesday 26/07/2022
FijiFirst MP Joseph Nand

The 2022\2023 National Budget has been described as one of the outstanding budgets which is fit for its purpose and meets the expectations of every Fijian.

FijiFirst MP Joseph Nand says it has not come as a surprise because the FijiFirst Government is known to deliver what is best for Fijians.

He says despite facing an economic downturn due to COVID-19 the Fijian economy has bounced back and is admired by many nations.

Nand adds a strong aspect of the budget is in the sporting area where a grant of $6.9 million has been allocated to support the development of sporting activities.

He says we know what Fijians are capable of doing in the sporting arena, the only country to win gold in 7s Rugby Olympics back to back and the allocation of $1.9 million to assist and enhance the performance of Fiji national teams through participation in regional, and international tournaments has come at the right time.

He also says $200,000 has been allocated to engage local and international experts to enhance sports development.



No agreement will be allowed for any other person from managing operations of the media outlet without prior approval

Media Bill to be debated later this week
By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 26/07/2022
[Image: Parliament of Fiji]

The Media Industry Development (Budget Amendment) Bill 2022 which will be debated in parliament later this week, seeks to amend the Act to prohibit a media organisation from entering into any agreement which allows any other person from managing the affairs or operations of the media organisation without the prior approval of the Authority.

It says this would ensure that control of a media organisation remains with the media organisation.

The Bill seeks to amend the Act to ensure that those who are directly in charge of a media organisation and its operations are shielded from any outside influence that may, by formal agreement or other arrangement, essentially take over or control the provision of services.

These services deal with the day-to-day operations of the media organisation including its finances, staffing, productions or publications.

The Bill also amends the Act to require a media organisation to notify the Authority where any such agreement exists and to provide details of the agreement in order to verify and ensure that the media organisation’s operations are not in any way unduly influenced.

The Media Industry Development Act 2010 Act provides for the regulation and registration of media organisations in Fiji.

Under section 33 of the Act, every media organisation that provides or intends to provide media services in Fiji must be registered under the Act.

A media organisation is registered when the proprietor or proprietors of the media organisation deposit with the Media Industry Development Authority, a duly sworn and signed affidavit or affidavits containing the required information as specified under the Act.

Section 38 of the Act provides that in the case of a company, all directors of a media organisation must be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji. In the case of any other legal entity, the person or persons with analogous powers in a media organisation, must also be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.

The Act also provides the limits of beneficial ownership of shares in a company or any other interest in the nature of ownership of a media organisation.

Up to 10 percent of the beneficial ownership or interest in the nature of ownership of a media organisation is allowed for any foreign person holding such shares or interests while 90 percent of any beneficial ownership of shares or any other interest in the nature of ownership of the media organisation, must be owned by Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.



Media Industry Development and WAF Bills tabled in parliament for debate later this week

Gavoka asks why this is being done, Speaker says there will be time to debate the bills
By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 26/07/2022

Two more bills – Media Industry Development Budget Amendment Bill and Water Authority of Fiji Budget Amendment Bill have been tabled in parliament by the Attorney General today, and the proposed laws must pass through one stage of a single sitting of parliament and must not be referred to a Standing Committee.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum also says the time for the debate be limited to ensure that the bills tabled are debated and voted upon during this week’s sitting of parliament.

He says this is part of the budget streamlining processes, fixing up numerous laws and bureaucracies.

SODELPA Leader, Viliame Gavoka says the week is already congested with the budget debate and debate on the consequential bills.

He says this is unforgivable as bills are just being brought in and to be passed this week.

Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau stresses that the time is dictated by him and there will be time to debate the bills. He also told Gavoka to make sure he is in parliament.

Sayed-Khaiyum says there is no time limit and the time will be determined by the Speaker.

Apart from the debate on the budget and consequential bills, a Bill for an Act to repeal the Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Act 2014, Bill for an Act to amend the Telecommunications Act 2008, Bill for an Act to amend the Illicit Drugs Control Act 2004, Bill for an Act to amend the Fiji National Provident Fund Act 2011, Bill for an Act to amend the Pharmacy Profession Act 2011 and Bill for an Act to amend the Medicinal Products Act 2011 were tabled yesterday for debate this week.



The budget once again proves the FijiFirst Government’s commitment to its people - Kumar

By Krishneel Nair
Tuesday 26/07/2022
Minister for Education Premila Kumar. [Image: Parliament of Fiji/Facebook]

The Opposition fails to realize Fiji has an excellent relationship with development partners who stepped in to assist and publicly praise Fiji’s excellent management of finances and revival of the economy.

Minister for Education Premila Kumar has made these comments, and says the budget once again proves the FijiFirst Government’s commitment to its people.

Kumar says the Ministry has plans to make several changes to build resilience in education delivery using this budget.

She says the efforts of the Ministry will be to reach out to students in rural, remote and maritime areas with an allocation of $12 million to improve infrastructure.

Kumar adds the Ministry has started working on developing an e-learning system for students and is creating a model classroom for year one students at Delainamasi Government School which will become the model for other schools to follow.

The Minister adds they are utilizing ADB funding to create open education resources for secondary school students in STEM subjects which is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Kumar also says the initiative of sanitary pads for female students will continue where 64,340 girls were assisted.

She says the Opposition look more stressed because they do not have any measures or policies thus far going forward to the election.

She adds since the budget announcement, the Opposition and other failed politicians were busy fabricating the misinformation and lies so they could deceive the public and lead them away from the real intention of the budget which is to genuinely assist ordinary Fijians to buffer the high cost of living.



Sayed-Khaiyum has delivered his last budget – Prof. Prasad

It is insulting to talk about the “Bula Boom” when thousands of people are struggling – NFP Leader
By Shanil Singh
Tuesday 26/07/2022
National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad. [Image: Parliament of Fiji/Facebook]

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has delivered his last National Budget and Fijians are ready to kick the FijiFirst Government out according to National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad.

While opposing the national budget, Prasad says three years ago Sayed-Khaiyum boasted about the “Bainimarama Boom” which became a national joke and he is now talking about the “Bula Boom”.

He says Sayed-Khaiyum talks about record breaking economic growth of 12.4% but he has forgotten that under this government another record was broken when the economy went backwards by 19%.

Prasad says this year’s deficit of almost $800 million will take the national debt to over $10 billion before the end of the year which includes Government guarantees.

The NFP Leader says it is insulting to talk about a “Bula Boom” when thousands of Fiji families are struggling to make ends meet.

He has questioned that if there has been a “Bainimarama Boom” then why was the minimum wage kept so low for so long and suddenly it was increased as election time came near. Prasad says the Prime Minister talked about the education revolution and he could not believe his ears because this has been the worst ever government for education. He says there is no vision to shape a school curriculum for the 21st century and teachers are put on insulting employment contracts.

The NFP Leader has also questioned why tens of thousands of people are without water every day and why are there constant power failures.

He says the Ministers on the other side still try to blame past governments but they forget that they have had 15 years to fix these problems.

Prasad says in that time they have spent $50 billion of our money and yet cannot even get the basics right.

He says all of a sudden the Minister for Economy is desperately promising now that all the water problems will be fixed in nine months.

Prasad adds nothing will change in Fiji until our leadership changes because leadership is the central role of government.

He says we have a government powered by the insecurity of two men and only those two are allowed to say and do anything.

Prasad says our two leaders have no succession plan because they do not want successors and are afraid of new leaders.



The Eastern Division has the highest rate of poverty amongst the 4 divisions in Fiji – Anare Jale

By Zodelle Bhan
Monday 25/07/2022
SODELPA MP, Anare Jale

SODELPA MP, Anare Jale says the Eastern Division has the highest rate of poverty amongst the 4 divisions in Fiji and has asked what is in the budget to address this problem.

He says the division consists of 3 maritime provinces and Rotuma.

He says the shipping services have been disrupted and the efforts to bring about safe, reliable and affordable shipping services to the maritime provinces have been affected by runaway inflation and a rise in fuel costs.

Jale says the rural to urban drift is a common concern for the Eastern Division as villages are now vacant as people have left for urban centres in search of better life.

He questions why the Government has failed to address this problem and suggests immediate assistance to support Fijians in the Eastern Division.

The SODELPA MP says the Government can implement a 50% subsidy on boat and airfare.

He also suggests a 50% freight subsidy on cargo for the first 20kg of fish brought from the islands to Suva.

Jale further says that the Government should pay a $500 per year hardship allowance to each Fijian living permanently in the islands.



Seasonal bans on Kawakawa, Donu and Sea Cucumber temporarily lifted

By Dhanjay Deo
Monday 25/07/2022
[File Photo]

The seasonal bans on Kawakawa, Donu and Sea Cucumber have been temporarily lifted.

While revealing this in parliament, Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau says this is part of the bold and cautious measures announced by the government.

While supporting the 2022/2023 National Budget, Koroilavesau says there will always be gaps within our systems and budgeted activities will face shortage of funds however the important thing to understand is that they all have a part to play.

He says they have an exciting financial year ahead of them.

Koroilavesau says this budget has been tailored to help safeguard Fijians and the economy.

He says the national budget does not only address the needs of people but has been carefully drafted to mitigate the global trends.

The Ministry of Fisheries has received an allocation of $16 million. Koroilavesau says this budget will be used for sustainable fisheries management, supporting the fisheries sector and restoring economic growth and community livelihood.



There are children from poor families who are hurt and hungry - Kuridrani

By Krishneel Nair
Monday 25/07/2022
SODELPA MP Inosi Kuridrani

There are Fijian children who are deprived of their basic necessities as the poverty level rises according to SODELPA MP Inosi Kuridrani.

While opposing the 2022/2023 National Budget, Kuridrani asks if the Minister for Economy realizes the frustrations and hardships of thousands of children from poor families that hardly have a decent meal a day and some even go to school without lunch.

He says some students are made to walk for miles to school while some choose to miss school altogether.

Kuridrani also says the well articulated presentation makes the budget look good in theory, but in reality it is very deceptive.

He adds the budget is irresponsible and has again failed to allocate resources to critical sectors of the economy especially in agriculture, fisheries and forests.

He further says it is unfortunate that the Minister talks about only the benefits of concessionary and interest free loans.

Kuridrani says Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum does not speak about the risks associated with all the borrowings.

He adds the budget is designed based on dishonesty, misinformation, manipulation and distortion of information.



Opposition calling every Govt support a freebie is gross disrespect to our people - Koya

By Reginald Chand
Monday 25/07/2022
Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Faiyaz Koya

Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Faiyaz Koya says the fact that the Opposition calls every Government support a freebie is a gross disrespect to our people.

He says what the Opposition is saying is that the Government should not have provided financial relief to businesses and families who had no source of income for months.

Koya adds what the Opposition is also saying is that the Government should not continue free education and should stop subsidizing bus fare for our children and the elderly.

He says it is quite simple that the Opposition has no ideas, no understanding of how to deal with a country that is suffering and no vision of where the country needs to go.

He says the Opposition and their associates are using every tactic under the sun to discredit the budget and use it to benefit their political needs.

Koya adds for the first half of this year, we have already recovered over half of our tourism numbers from the same period in 2019.

He says these numbers show that we are on an accelerated path to recovery that will see at least 500,000 visitors to our shores and bring in $1.3 billion in revenue this year.



Adimaitoga says Prof. Prasad wants to mislead but Prasad says Adimaitoga is a confused, disoriented and muddled member of FijiFirst

By Rashika Kumar, Reginald Chand
Monday 25/07/2022
Assistant Minister for iTaukei Affairs, Selai Adimaitoga and National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad

Assistant Minister for iTaukei Affairs, Selai Adimaitoga says she has not heard National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad and their opponents say the Russia-Ukraine war is causing the prices to go up because they want to mislead everybody while Prasad says Adimaitoga, like her leaders, are the ones that have been telling lies to the people of this country for the last several years about the economy and the suffering of the people.

While speaking in support of the 2022-2023 National Budget in Parliament today, Adimaitoga says instead of helping the country and the people, the Opposition is creating more problems, anger in the society and are directly harming many people with their lies.

Adimaitoga says the only way we will survive is through unity and looking out for one other but unfortunately it seems that irresponsible politicians have decided that this global situation is an opportunity to gain political power.

When questioned on Adimaitoga’s comments, Prasad says Adimaitoga is a confused, disoriented and muddled member of FijiFirst, succumbing to a dictates of the two men government and reads speeches written for her.

He says that is why she is confused about what they say on behalf of the people of Fiji and the suffering they are going through.



A SODELPA Govt will collect record revenue by getting rid of ill thought out tax proposals - Gavoka

By Dhanjay Deo
Monday 25/07/2022
SODELPA Leader Viliame Gavoka

SODELPA has the will to collect record revenue as allowed by law and meet the cry of the people according to their Leader, Viliame Gavoka.

While opposing the 2022/2023 National Budget, Gavoka says the challenge is more pronounced for them as politicians and parliamentarians as their calling is on a national scale and the party is charged to make things better for all Fijians.

He says they know of a woman who could no longer afford dialysis and passed away.

The SODELPA Leader says they know of a young woman in Labasa educated through TELS who could not find employment, was unable to repay the loan and is now selling her body.

While announcing the party’s plans, Gavoka says a SODELPA government will have a single rate of VAT at 10 percent for normal supplies of goods and services and 0 percent rate for exported goods and basic items which will be in the second schedule of the VAT Act.

He says there are currently three VAT rates which bring about inconsistencies and difficulties in application and policing.

Gavoka says a SODELPA government will also bring back the dividend withholding tax for non residents and residents of Fiji.

He says the dividend withholding tax used to apply at 9 percent for non residents and 3 percent to residents of Fiji and this was repealed in 2017 following which the government lost millions of dollars.

Gavoka says when Fijians are crying out for help, we cannot be foregoing this revenue to please certain people.

He says they will also bring back the bronze profit tax which was introduced in 2008 at rate of 15 percent and government used to collect $70 to 80 million annually.

The SODELPA Leader says it is strange that this tax was repealed in 2015.

He adds they will also take back corporate tax to 28 percent for resident companies and 33 percent for non resident companies. He says they will also increase corporate tax to 28 percent for all companies listed on the South Pacific Stock Exchange. Gavoka says this will create a level playing field.

They will also increase capital gains tax to 28 percent if the party forms the next government.

Gavoka also told the parliament that a SODELPA government will re-introduce the Stamp Duty Act.

Click here for full coverage on the 2022/2023 National Budget Debate.



PM says if more support is needed during these volatile times after 6 months, it will be given

If the Prof. can’t comprehend basic Maths, he should go back to school - PM
By Vijay Narayan
Monday 25/07/2022
Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama

If more support is needed during these volatile times after six months, it will be given.

Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama has made these comments as he supported the 2022/2023 National Budget in parliament today.

Bainimarama says they have responded through a new $60 million Inflation Mitigation Package. He says it includes cash support to families paid up per child, one dollar per day or $30 a month.

He says it is not a fortune by any means but this is a difference make up for many needy families between the start of August and the end of December.

The Prime Minister says there are also one off payments of $180 going to tertiary students, people on government pensions and on after care and social welfare recipients.

The Prime Minister says they borrowed so that families could put food on the table and businesses did not have to shut down forever.

He says if our people had not been given access to the unemployment benefit rolled out in the pandemic and the social support that they never cut in the pandemic, the families would not have been able to feed their children and keep their homes and businesses would have been forced to borrow at much higher rates to simply survive if they could borrow at all.

Bainimarama says the Attorney General and the Ministry of Economy team deserve the accolades.

He says the most telling commentary about the budget comes from their opponents who called it an elections budget which is a funny way of admitting that it is a damn good budget for the people

Bainimarama says they do not work towards an election, they work for the people.

He says the Opposition call the assistance freebies and it shows their intellectual bankruptcy.

The Prime Minister says only a politician seated in the comfort of their office would ever dare to call the social support a freebie.

He also stresses that the government is not holding a buy 1 get 1 free sale on TV sets, and they are providing security to the most vulnerable in our society.

He says the Opposition has had 10 days to provide any credible alternative policies, and the government has heard nothing from them but school yard tantrums. Bainimarama says he trusts the people to tell the difference between those working to serve them and those who could not be bothered to present them with an alternative budget, those who could not be bothered to complete their terms in parliament and those who cannot be bothered to tell the truth to the public.

He stresses that Professor Biman Prasad misled the people about the guaranteed cane price.

The Prime Minister says if the Professor can’t comprehend basic Maths, he should go back to school.

He also says Professor Prasad should go and speak to his old colleague, Doctor Rup Singh who has said that Fiji’s debt levels are sustainable. He says that is a real analysis from a real Professor who still believes in objective truth and who has not sacrificed his academic credentials on the altar of political ambition.

Bainimarama also says Prasad and his new bedmate Sitiveni Rabuka only know how to paint the worst possible picture of the country through conjecture, pessimism and fabricated theories.

Prasad had released a statement saying that the government had betrayed the cane growers by slashing the allocation of guaranteed price of $85 per tonne to $8 million in the next budget.

Click here for full coverage on the 2022/2023 National Budget Debate.



Bulanauca says it is an election budget while AG challenges Bulanauca to make allegations against him and the PM outside Parliament

By Rusiate Baleilevuka, Shanil Singh
Monday 25/07/2022
[Photo: File]

SODELPA MP, Mitieli Bulanauca says the 2022-2023 National Budget is an elections budget and that the FijiFirst government can only fool some people some of the time but cannot fool all the people all the time.

While opposing the budget in parliament today, Bulanauca says there are many unexpected irresponsible expenditure which will go into buying of votes or freebies.

He adds that there is no reason why the government continues to increase the budget for the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

Bulanauca also suggested that the education budget should have been increased as well as the allocation for the Ministry of Health.

The SODELPA MP says there needs to be more preventative health programs which is better than regulating mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations that the government has forced everyone to have.

Meanwhile the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has challenged Bulanauca to make allegations against him and the Prime Minister outside Parliament after Bulanauca made serious allegations against Sayed-Khaiyum and the Prime Minister.

Sayed-Khaiyum says we all know what Bulanauca is like and cannot take him seriously.

He says Bulanauca’s comments and attributions are pathetic.

The Attorney General says it is unfortunate that most members of the Opposition pull out the ethnic card to threaten stability in the country.

Click here for full coverage on the 2022/2023 National Budget Debate.



Recent budgets by Govt are smoke-screens – Ratu Naiqama

AG spent more time to lecture & campaign – Opposition Leader
By Dhanjay Deo
Monday 25/07/2022
Opposition Leader Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu

Opposition Leader, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu has classified the 2022/2023 National Budget and the Revised Budget earlier this year as smoke-screens as he says the budget presentations have been designed to disguise the real intention.

He says the fact is that everything is not rosy.

Ratu Naiqama says reduction of VAT on 21 items will not only benefit the poor but the rich as well.

He says at the same time, the increase of VAT on items such as footwear and textiles will make it difficult for an average citizen to buy such basic necessities.

While opposing the National Budget, Ratu Naiqama says the government continues with its unsustainable borrowing spree to finance government expenditure, particularly operating expenditure.

He says our focus should be on sustainable use of resources especially our resource based sectors.

Ratu Naiqama says it is unfortunate that more and more of our people are facing hardships and are falling below the poverty threshold.

He adds it unlikely we will achieve the 12.4 percent economic growth projection because of the challenges due to the increase in fossil fuel prices with the corresponding increase to the cost of travel, high risk of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and monkey-pox.

Ratu Naiqama says the “Bula Boom” catch phrase is very doubtful.

He then said it is unfortunate the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum spent more than 60 percent of the budget address in giving a lecture and campaigning to the people of Fiji.

He says this is an electioneering budget to buy votes.

Ratu Naiqama has also questioned whether Sayed-Khaiyum conducted genuine budget consultations or was it campaigning for election.

Click here for full coverage on the 2022/2023 National Budget Debate.



Ratu Suliano’s parliamentary seat will remain vacant

By Naveel Krishant
Monday 25/07/2022
Ratu Suliano Matanitobua in parliament back in 2021

Ratu Suliano Matanitobua’s parliamentary seat will remain vacant until the next General Elections.

This ruling was delivered by Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau this morning.

Ratu Suliano has been convicted of one count each of giving false information to a public servant and one count of obtaining a financial advantage.

Ratu Epeli says Ratu Suliano’s seat will remain vacant as the seat has become vacant more than 3 years and 6 months after the first meeting of parliament following the most recent general elections.

He adds Ratu Suliano is also disqualified from contesting this year’s general elections as well.

Clickhere for full coverage on the 2022/2023 National Budget Debate.



2022-2023 Budget Debate Coverage




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