Fiscal Review Committee chair, Richard Naidu and senior member, Vani Catanasiga appeared on fijivillage Straight Talk with Vijay Narayan to discuss issues relating to the economy and the various recommendations the committee has forwarded to government on how to better manage the economy.
The Executive Director of Fiji Council of Social Services, Vani Catanasiga has revealed that the Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) survey they conducted was raised with the previous government last year but somehow it was not allowed to be released as the Ministry of Health was very concerned about the data.
While speaking during the fijivillage Straight Talk With Vijay Narayan, Catanasiga says this issue could have been addressed in the last 16 years and they as an organisation had to fight to bring the issue to mainstream discourse.
She also says we should speak to the former Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on this.
She says the organisation had to be creative about how they brought the data to reality and to be discussed in open forums.
Catanasiga says they tried to work in the Public Finance Management space and the budget advocacy disaster spaces, but they were careful as well so that they don’t harm the people that they worked with at the sub-national level.
Catanasiga says the WASH survey was conducted across the 4 divisions and they managed to bring that to the committee’s attention but some of the findings were quite concerning.
She says they are using that to try and perhaps influence the way they would tackle wash infrastructure.
She adds that despite how we have progressed as a nation, some communities don’t have piped-reticulated water.
Catanasiga says their issues around waste management are pretty concerning and their survey found that there is a high risk of water-borne diseases in communities and informal settlements and these are communities just outside of the Lami area.
Fiscal Review Committee Chair and prominent lawyer, Richard Naidu says people are free to talk and express their concerns now as well as criticise what has been happening.
He says when you talk about all the things that are happening now, it was so difficult to bring out simple information before.
Naidu says over the last 16 years, no one knew and nobody was allowed to talk about these issues.
He says there is a need for everybody to step up and contribute their skills and make things happen.
You can watch the full Straight Talk interview here:
You have to spend money on maintenance of government assets and infrastructure in order to improve the length of life of all of the assets that you own and that is what the government has not done.
This was stated by Fiscal Review Committee Chair and prominent lawyer, Richard Naidu while speaking on fijivillage Straight Talk with Vijay Narayan.
Naidu says one of the things that came through to them was that the government spends $5 on building new infrastructure and then spends $1 to maintain it.
He says this is something that is supposed to be done the other way around according to experts.
Naidu says no assets are maintained and there is no scheduled maintenance as well.
Naidu says everything was sort of just made up as it goes along.
He says Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Doctor James Fong has been telling them how they are really struggling in the Ministry now because they have never had enough money and they have been under-funded for many years.
There can be a lot of savings with better coordination with the government and this will take away some of the wastage.
Fiscal Review Committee Member and Executive Director of the Fiji Council of Social Services, Vani Catanasiga highlighted this during the fijivillage Straight Talk with Vijay Narayan.
Catanasiga says in the past few years, agencies were doing things that they were not mandated to do.
She says there is a lot of duplication in government programmes including those geared towards poverty alleviation.
She also says better coordination in the sense that different agencies talk about their plans can avoid duplication in the community.
Catanasiga adds agencies that were mandated and understood issues like vulnerability were concentrating on programmes established 20 or 30 years ago that were no longer relevant.
Catanisaga says agencies that have come into this field did not understand the issues and how the communities coped with them and communication being one of the issues caused a lot of wastage.
She says issues around waste management are concerning which could have been addressed in the last 16 years despite raising the issues.
She says there could be a lot of savings just with better coordination and they are also working to improve this.
Our recommendation is unfortunately, VAT will need to go up but not for the personal income tax threshold to come down.
This has been highlighted by Fiscal Review Committee Chair and prominent lawyer, Richard Naidu while speaking on fijivillage Straight Talk with Vijay Narayan where he says when there is zero percent VAT on basic items, poor people pay less but so do those who earn more.
He says for people who earn more, their money should go to the government to ensure that money can be used to target assistance to the poorest people.
Naidu says if zero rating is taken off basic items, the government would probably collect about $200 to $220 million depending on what the VAT is.
Naidu says people are saying not to increase VAT but to increase the taxes on the rich and the government will get the money they need but there are 161,000 people who file their taxes with FRCS however, 21,000 people pay personal income tax.
He says this is because of the high income tax threshold where anyone earning under $30,000 keeps their income but there are only 21,000 people left to pay their personal income tax.
Naidu says this raised about $200 million a year but VAT on the other hand makes between $800 and $900 million a year and customs makes about $400 million a year.
He says when you say to tax more people, there is no one to tax.
The lawyer says they are not recommending the personal income tax threshold to come down because if it goes down from $30,000 to $20,000 then the government will make about $55 million a year.
He says this is a very small sum of money for the pain they will be putting on people.
When questioned if they have looked at wastage where before the elections last year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad had said wastage was close to $500 million a year and the Leader of Unity Fiji, Savenaca Narube had said it was close to a billion dollars , Naidu says they have to get in and see what can be fixed.
He says the committee tries but they have not drilled down to the last detail.
Naidu says in some ways they have to spend more money to save it.
When questioned what is her assessment on this, Fiscal Review Committee Member and Executive Director of Fiji Council of Social Services Vani Catanasiga says if increasing the VAT makes the system more effective, she is all for it as it is a good time to improve social welfare and protection in Fiji.
She says even when the social welfare programs are being implemented now, there are many left out who should be on it.
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