Pre-Budget 2024-2025

Pre-Budget 2024-2025

By fijivillage
Thursday 27/06/2024

Pre Budget 2024-2025 budget recommendations and an insight of what people on the ground wish to see in the National Budget

2023-2024 National Budget Address

2023-2024 Budget Supplement

2023-2024 Budget Estimates

Lautoka residents call for united effort to tackle escalating drug problem and homelessness

Concerns raised on high hard drug use and child prostitution
By Rashika Kumar, Vijay Narayan
Thursday 27/06/2024
[Image: Lautoka City Council]

Calls are being made by residents of Lautoka for the Government and communities to work together and solve the issue of drugs as people are moving away from marijuana but are going into hard drugs, which is a very sad situation.

Lautoka Residents and Ratepayers Association President, Narayan Reddy says more than 200 people can be found on the streets of Lautoka in the mornings, and the number is increasing.

Concerns have also been raised by the people of Lautoka as drug peddlers are seen everyday in the city area.

They say hard drug use in rife and they have also seen the increase in young girls, even of primary school age, involved in prostitution.

Narayan adds some of them have mental health issues because of drugs and the Government, especially the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection must look into this because there are more women on the streets of Lautoka compared to men.

Reddy says he finds it hard to believe that people in Fiji do not have homes because we all have families.

He says people, the business people of Lautoka, the Government, and NGOs need to work together and give these people the moral support they need.

The Association President says he has seen that people need encouragement, and ideas to do new things and to work things out.

He says that instead of giving free handouts, people should start encouraging them, get them a job and help them get back into the society.

The 2024/2025 National Budget will be delivered at 10am tomorrow.

Diabetes Fiji calls for increase in preventative health care and subsidising of NCD meds and supplies

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 26/06/2024
[Image: File]

As we approach the announcement of the National Budget, Diabetes Fiji is calling on the government to revamp the Sweetened Sugar and Beverage Tax, increase investment in preventative health care and subsidise NCD medications and supplies.

They believe this budget presents a crucial opportunity for the government to take meaningful steps towards improving the health and well-being of our nation, particularly for those living with diabetes.

Diabetes Fiji says they have been tirelessly working to be the voice of people living with diabetes, advocating for their needs and addressing the vulnerabilities they face.

The organisation says in light of the upcoming budget, they urge the government to prioritise preventative measures rather than allocating the majority of resources to end-stage treatments such as hospital admissions and management of complications.

Diabetes Fiji is calling for the redirecting of the revenue generated from the sweetened sugar tax to NGOs and organisations dedicated to assist those suffering from and at risk of NCDs, of which diabetes and its co-mobidities are the main killers.

This reallocation will ensure that funds are utilised effectively in the prevention and management of NCDs.

They say a substantial portion of the budget should be allocated to preventative measures, including public education campaigns, community health programs, and early screening initiatives. Diabetes Fiji says investing in prevention will ultimately reduce the burden on the health care system and improve long-term health outcomes.

They also urge the government to provide subsidies for essential NCD medications such as insulin, particularly at private pharmacies.

The organisation says additionally, subsidies should be extended to diabetes medical supplies, including glucometer machines, glucose strips, glucose lancets, insulin syringes, and sharps containers.

They add making these supplies more affordable will greatly enhance the quality of life for individuals managing diabetes.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad will deliver the 2024/2025 National Budget at 10am Friday.

We are preparing for decisive action should our demand not be met in the budget on Friday - FTU

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Tuesday 25/06/2024
Photo : File

The Fiji Teachers Union calls on the government to act now to prevent a future where students are left without teachers.

In a statement, the Union General Secretary Muniappa Goundar says they are making significant progress with all necessary preparations for decisive action should their demand not be met in the upcoming budget announcement this Friday.

Goundar says the notice for a secret ballot was submitted on Tuesday 11th of this month, and they are still awaiting the outcome.

He says the extended duration of the application vetting process is puzzling, especially, when compared to the speedy approval of the University of the South Pacific Staff Association’s application, which was processed within a day.

Goundar adds the reason for this delay seems evident.

The FTU General Secretary says a substantial pay increase is essential for their members, who have been neglected for far too long, and many teachers are resigning to pursue teaching positions abroad.

He says it is only just that they receive the compensation they rightfully deserve, which will help curb the exodus of teachers.

Goundar says retaining teachers equates to preserving valuable experience in the classroom, which is cost-effective compared to the expensive and time-consuming process of training new graduates to replace them.

He adds teachers are currently overloaded with work, and the rise in student misbehaviour has further burdened them.

He says, unlike in the past, attracting high-quality candidates to teacher training institutions has become increasingly difficult, and many school leavers now seek other professions and only consider teaching as a last resort if they fail to secure a place elsewhere.

The General Secretary says they understand that placing teachers in classrooms under the current pay structure will not resolve the issue, and these young teachers are likely to follow their predecessors to overseas markets.

Goundar says Fiji risks becoming merely a training ground for countries like Australia and New Zealand, and therefore, the FTU believes that the government must provide fair and just remuneration to teachers to minimize resignations and migration.

He says failing to do so will result in a continuous loss of experienced teachers to overseas markets.

He further says that they demand a 30 percent pay increase for its members.

The FTU General Secretary says teachers have endured insufficient pay for far too long, making it difficult to provide even a modest meal for their families.

Goundar says immediate action is necessary to avert, a crisis such as students left without teachers in a classroom.

He called on the government to pay the teachers well and meet their demands.

Investment slow-paced, skills shortage worry, high cost of living, red tape and low economic growth a concern – Ariff Ali

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 25/06/2024
[Image: File]

As we await the announcement of the 2024/2025 National Budget, there are clear indications that a lot of work needs to be done as the Macroeconomic Committee has highlighted that investment is slow-paced, we continue to have a major worry on skills shortage, high cost of living, red tape and low economic growth rate.

While pipeline projects look promising for Fiji, the committee says investment activity is slow-paced in our country due to several challenges, such as high building and material costs, skill shortages and red tape.

The committee chaired by Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor, Ariff Ali says apart from the surprisingly strong growth in tourist arrivals up to April and higher gold output due to the start of production at Tuvatu Gold Mine, other sector outcomes are performing below par.

Despite the buoyant inflow of remittances and higher incomes, growth in consumption spending has moderated largely due to the notable number of Fijian citizens migrating abroad, most of them whom are skilled and semi-skilled workers (around 15 percent of the total labour force).

It has been earlier stated that more than 70,000 people have left Fiji.

The outturn in the economy has also been impacted by elevated cost of living as inflation went up to 7.1 percent in April 2024 and lower than expected Government expenditure, the latter affected by capacity constraints.

Ali adds the Fiji economy started 2024 on a softer note than anticipated as evidenced by partial indicators.

The latest available data and weaker incoming forward-looking information have led to a downward revision to Fiji’s 2024 GDP growth forecast to 2.8 percent from 3.4 percent projected in November 2023.

The revised forecast takes into account the possible increase in Government expenditure in the 2024-2025 National Budget to boost the economy.

The other key sectors to contribute towards this growth include the financial, agriculture, transport, accommodation, wholesale and retail sales, manufacturing, information and communication, electricity, construction, mining and administration sectors.

GDP projections for 2025 and 2026 are broadly unchanged from last November, with economic activity forecast to strengthen slightly and hover around the pre-pandemic growth trend of 3 percent.

Risks to the outlook are tilted to the downside and include heightened geopolitical tensions, continued loss of labour due to migration, delayed regulatory approvals, rising cost of doing business and the constant threat of climate change and natural disasters.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad will deliver the 2024/2025 National Budget at 10am Friday.

Increase in minimum wage rate without increased productivity will result in higher prices of goods and services – Macroeconomic Committee

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 25/06/2024
Chair of the Macroeconomic Committee, Ariff Ali

Chair of the Macroeconomic Committee, Ariff Ali has signaled higher prices of goods and services if we have an increase in the national minimum wage without increased productivity.

There are indications coming through that increased freight costs during and after COVID-19 were passed down to the consumers, and people have also felt the effects through the increase in the prices of goods and services after the VAT increase to 15 percent and company tax going up from 20 percent to 25 percent.

In the latest assessment, Ali says the risk of heightened geopolitical tensions, continued loss of labour due to migration, delayed approvals, rising cost of doing business and the constant threat of climate change and natural disasters, combined with the proposed increase in the minimum wage rate without increased productivity will raise input costs for businesses resulting in higher prices of goods and services that are likely to be passed down to consumers, affecting inflation and economic activity.

The Macroeconomic Committee is made up of heads and senior representatives from the Ministry of Finance; Fiji Bureau of Statistics; Ministry of Trade, Co-operatives, Small and Medium Enterprises, Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Office of the Prime Minister; Investment Fiji; Fiji Revenue and Customs Service and the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad will deliver the 2024/2025 National Budget at 10am Friday.

Nadi residents call for lower cost of living and higher minimum wage

By Rashika Kumar
Tuesday 25/06/2024
Photo: File

As the government prepares to deliver the 2024/2025 National Budget, some Nadi residents say people are expecting an announcement that would reduce the price of basic food items and the cost of living.

Anish Krishna says people know that basic food items have zero percent VAT or reduced fiscal duties but they are still hoping that the price of other things such as vegetables in the market can come down which has increased because of natural disasters and rainy weather conditions.

People hope that more items and import duties or port duties are reduced.

They say it is good that the government is reviewing the National Minimum Wage and hope it will be $5 an hour.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad will announce the 2024/2025 National Budget at 10am this Friday.

DPM Prasad warns poultry industry to charge reasonable prices or Govt will implement price control

By Alipate Narawa
Wednesday 19/06/2024
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad

When the government provides them with support to protect the industry they must also take some responsibility to ensure that the prices they charge to the consumers are reflective, reasonable and makes sense.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad highlighted this to fijivillage News regarding the fluctuating frozen chicken prices over the last few weeks.

Professor Prasad says if the poultry industry does not pass on the incentives it receives, then the government will have no other option but to ensure that they do so, and that is the clear message he wants to send to the industry.

He says the government gives the poultry industry a 42 percent duty protection and expects them to behave ethically in a way they are able to translate that protection into better quality and priced products because they are also restricting the import of frozen chickens.

He says between the three chicken producers in the country, they employ 2,400 people, and they cannot use that as a basis of holding 800,000 people to ransom.

Professor Prasad will deliver the 2024/2025 National Budget at 10am next Friday.

Parliamentarians’ pay needs to be revisited with proper public consultation and independent evaluation - Fiscal Review Committee

By Vijay Narayan
Sunday 16/06/2024
lawyer, Richard Naidu

The Fiscal Review Committee chaired by prominent lawyer, Richard Naidu says that the question of Parliamentarians’ pay needs to be revisited with a proper public consultation and independent evaluation process.

In a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad, the Fiscal Review Committee says public confidence in the quality of Government administration is critical to achieving its economic objectives.

It says citizens will not support Government initiatives or align their energies with them – whether as investors, volunteers, public servants or even taxpayers if they do not believe that the Government is working effectively and productively in the nation’s interest.

The Richard Naidu led Committee says in their view, the broad public sense is that the Government is not working to full capacity - or particularly productively.

They say the recent saga over Parliamentary pay rises, which the Prime Minister himself acknowledges was poorly managed, was another dent in public confidence.

It says issues such as frequent foreign travel by Government Ministers, while not fiscally insignificant, have an outsize impact on public perceptions of the productivity and accountability of the Government.

The Committee says conversely, if the Government could show improvements in discipline in these politically sensitive areas it could have a significant positive economic impact.

The Committee encourages the Government to make serious and demonstrable commitments to reduce expenditure on Government Ministers’ travel and perquisites.

Overall, the Committee believes that the Government’s decisions in the 2023-24 National Budget to significantly increase taxes, in particular corporate tax and VAT, were bold and necessary.

They say the tax measures did not conform exactly with the Committee’s specific recommended measures but they were in the Committee’s view appropriate in principle.

The Committee says they responded to the urgent need to properly fund Government operating and capital expenditure, particularly infrastructure, where there is serious “catching up” to do on water and sewerage, roads and bridges, hospitals and health centres and other critical facilities such as school buildings, avoid large deficits and create a “fiscal buffer” to enable Government to respond to future shocks such as major weather events, stabilize and begin to reduce the critical Government debt to GDP ratio.

The Committee says this is a critical indicator of the Government’s financial health and its ability to finance future necessary capital expenditure to drive economic growth and improve social outcomes.

They say these demands on the Government remain and they will not be resolved overnight.

The Committee says these will remain a challenge in the next decade, probably longer.

They say this means that the Government must “stay the course” and it must also build political consensus so that future governments, not necessarily of the same political party makeup, stay committed to this approach.

They believe that the Government can be commended for significantly improving the political environment to allow greater economic dialogue and debate (and with it, criticism) on key economic issues.

They add a National Economic Summit was successfully concluded last year (although it has yet to produce any ongoing work).

The Naidu led Committee says the joint appearance of the Minister of Finance and the Leader of the Opposition at a recent economic forum offers a glimpse of how political consensus can be built on critical economic issues.

It adds thhe new National Development Plan will provide further opportunities for citizens to participate in discussions on a future national economic vision and critical priorities.

They also commend the Government for improving policy transparency by early signaling of future tax and revenue policies and promising stable and consistent application of those policies as confidence-builder for investors and consumers.

The Committee says civil society has welcomed the implementation of the Citizens Budget initiative in which key Budget measures are presented in a short and accessible 12-page document.

They add the Government has been able to report a reasonably credible “investment pipeline” of new projects promoted by both foreign and domestic investors.

However, they say as is always the case with such projects, they take significant time to be implemented, meaning slower impacts on economic growth at a time when stronger economic growth is needed.

The Committee highlights that investor complaints about poor public sector bureaucracy and regulation persist.

It adds Government continues to be challenged by a perception that it does not make investment or ongoing business easy.

The current members of the Fiscal Review Committee are Richard Naidu (Chair), Lisa Apted (Deputy Chair), Riyaz Ali, Vani Catanasiga, Edwin Chand, Neelesh Gounder, Matelita Katamotu, Fantasha Lockington, Kirti Patel, Pradeep Patel, Naibuka Saune and Viliame Takayawa.

Stay with us as we will have more on the budget submission by the Fiscal Review Committee.

Committee silent on 7-year tax holiday to Fiji Water – Chaudhry

Fiji Water not exempt from paying taxes – PM
By Rashika Kumar
Tuesday 18/06/2024
[Image: albertwines]

Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says it is surprising that the 2023 Fiscal Review Committee which has submitted a range of taxation measures for the 2024/25 Budget, is silent on one of the most questionable measures of last year’s Budget – the 7-year tax holiday to Fiji Water.

He says the tax holiday granted to this extremely profitable foreign-owned company was widely questioned, and came as a slap on the face for the rest of the people who were lumped with a 15 percent VAT on all goods and services except for a few staple food items.

The FLP Leader says Government has not come up with any satisfactory explanation as to why Fiji Water received such exceptionally favourable treatment when local manufacturers had their corporate tax rate increased from 20 percent to 25 percent.

Chaudhry says if 2023 Fiscal Review Committee chairman, Richard Naidu, thinks that recommending the increase in water resource tax of 19.5 cents a litre (current) will mitigate against the unjustified tax holiday to Fiji Water, he is mistaken.

He says by all means increase the water resource tax; after all, the introduction of a water resource tax in 2007 was his policy initiative when he tried to impose 20 cents a litre resource tax on water and met with strong reaction against it by Fiji Water.

The FLP Leader says the 7-year tax holiday to Fiji Water is discriminatory and totally unjustified, and must be rescinded in the 2024/25 Budget.

He claims the local water bottling companies are on record as saying they have no objection to paying the corporate tax.

He adds the Airport Departure Tax is already quite high and should remain at the current $140.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka had earlier said the seven-year concession on corporate tax for the bottled water industry is to encourage new players who wish to enter the industry in Tailevu, Ra and Ba, and existing operators who wish to expand operations.

The Prime Minister said the revenue measures in the 2023/2024 Budget for the water bottling industry i.e. the water resource tax has increased to 19.5 cents per litre (an increase of 1.5c per litre) means that the company will pay more in taxes to the Fiji Revenue Customs Service.

He had said contrary to claims, the Fiji Water company is not exempted from paying taxes in Fiji under the 2023/2024 Budget revenue measures.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad will deliver the 2024/2025 National Budget at 10am next Friday.

Qaraniqio's passion as a nurse keeps him going despite challenges

By Mikaele Liga
Wednesday 12/06/2024
Photo: JKL-Media

The call for service and passion for work is what keeps Rupeni Qaraniqio, going despite the challenges he faces in Vanuabalavu as a registered nurse serving in the Lomaloma Subdivision in Vanuabalavu.

Qaraniqio, who is the team leader serving in Vanuabalavu, says his team is currently doing a great job, despite the issues they face in the field.

He says their major concern and challenge is transportation via boat in the open seas because the weather is unpredictable most of the time.

Qaraniqio is hoping the Government will look into their transportation issues in the upcoming budget, because of the risks associated with transportation in the open seas.

He adds that his love for this noble profession of serving the public in the maritime areas is God’s calling into his life and he will do his best with the help of his team members to carry out his duties.

FTA and FTU call on the Govt to prioritize the right pay for the teachers and civil servants in the budget

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Thursday 06/06/2024
Fijian Teachers Association and Fiji Teachers Union Spokesperson Muniappa Goundar.

Fijian Teachers Association and Fiji Teachers Union Spokesperson Muniappa Goundar says for this National Budget, the government should show that they are a caring and worker-friendly government.

While responding to fijivillage News question on what the government should prioritize in the upcoming national budget, Goundar says for 17 years, the teachers and workers in the school system have been deprived of good pay.

He adds considering the high cost of living, there needs to be a change seen in the way the government leads the nation.

When questioned if there are other issues that need the government's attention, Goundar says all FTA and FTU board members are looking forward to better pay for their members.

The 2024/2025 National Budget will be delivered at 10am on June 28th.

Rise in cost of living and drugs – FCOSS

Unfortunately MPs prioritised their salaries and benefits first - Catanasiga
By Navitalai Naivalurua
Tuesday 04/06/2024
Director of Fiji Council of Social Services, Vani Catanasiga

The Director of Fiji Council of Social Services, Vani Catanasiga, says communities are still reeling from the impact of the rise in the cost of living and are also concerned about the drug issues faced within the country however the government and majority of the parliamentarians have unfortunately prioritised their salaries and benefits first.

Catanasiga says they feel these issues would motivate the MPs to really re-focus and prioritize key actions that will protect the most vulnerable.

She says every community they visited are still struggling to deal with the rise in the cost of living, and the rainy weather we have experienced over the past few weeks has also affected people's lives.

The FCOSS Director says another ongoing concern is the drug issues in Fiji, as there is not enough support given to the authorities to tackle the problem.

She adds that there is a need for a rehabilitation facility to be set up in the country to deal with and assist drug addicts.

Catanasiga says they are also concerned about the reports of children using and peddling drugs.

She wants these serious issues to be addressed in the 2024/2025 National Budget that will be delivered on June 28th.

Any changes to the minimum wage rate will affect our SMEs – Lockington

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Tuesday 04/06/2024
[Image: File]

The CEO of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, Fantasha Lockington is calling on the government to re-look at the national minimum wage before approving any changes which will have a drastic impact on small and medium-sized enterprises.

With the Fiji Trades Union Congress calling for the national minimum wage rate to start at $6 per hour, Lockington says the Government should first look at the sectoral wages as different sectors are already paying higher rates than the minimum wage rate of $4.

She says any increase in the minimum wage rate will definitely affect our SMEs as they won’t be able to afford the increase.

She adds that SMEs make up quite a large percentage of the country’s workforce, and they should be protected.

While launching the FTUC National Minimum Wage campaign during their 50th Biennial Delegates Conference in Nadi last month, the Union had called on the government to increase the national minimum wage to $6 per hour.

The current national minimum wage is $4 per hour.

Minister for Employment Agni Deo Singh confirms that the new wage rate will be effective from the 1st of August 2024, which will be announced in the budget address by the Minister for Finance.

The budget address will be delivered at 10am on Friday June 28th.

Prof. Prasad concentrates on budget, makes no comments on the gazetted increases

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Monday 03/06/2024
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad says the government’s focus now is on the next budget, and whatever policies and decisions by the government are bound to have supporters and also those that will be against it.

Professor Prasad highlighted this when questioned by fijivillage News on his stand after the increase in the salaries and benefits of the President, Speaker, members of cabinet and Parliament were gazetted last Thursday without public consultations and a Bill to be taken to parliament.

Professor Prasad says he has said everything in Parliament, and he will leave it at that.

While speaking on behalf of the 5 NFP Members of Parliament, Professor Prasad had said that when the Parliamentary Emoluments Committee report came out, they were to take it back to the NFP Management Board as the decision of the NFP was that the MPs should not recommend increases to their own salaries.

Professor Prasad said their position on this matter is in accordance with the directive of the party.

Professor Prasad said the NFP earlier voted against the increase in allowances as it was determined by the FijiFirst Government, and also does not support the proposed increases in the report this time.

When questioned on his message to the people, Professor Prasad says this is a government which has provided absolute freedom, openness and transparency about how they do things in the country.

The 2024/2025 National Budget will be delivered at 10am on Friday June 28th.

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