Revised 2021-2022 National Budget passed in parliament

Revised 2021-2022 National Budget passed in parliament

By fijivillage
Saturday 26/03/2022
[Photo: File]


VAT to be zero rated for 21 items from 1st April 2022 and current 20 cents fuel tax to be removed - AG

VAT raised to 15% on 21 items which include alcohol, tobacco, textiles, clothing and footwear
By Vijay Narayan
Friday 25/03/2022
Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [Image: Fijian Government]

Good news for people as from 1st April 2022, sugar, flour, rice, canned fish, cooking oil, potatoes, onion, garlic, baby milk, powdered milk, liquid milk, dhal, tea, salt, kerosene, cooking gas, soap, soap powder, toilet paper, sanitary pads and toothpaste are all going to become VAT zero-rated.

While announcing the 2021/2022 Revised National Budget, Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says in total, this reduction will send $163 million in tax revenues back to the Fijian people and alleviate the cruellest burden that the pandemic and the Russian war have placed on our people’s backs.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the government will continue to review the price of food and other essentials as time goes on, a flexible policy posture will be maintained to adapt to the current circumstances.

The Attorney General says to alleviate the sharp rise in fuel price due to the conflict in Ukraine, the Government will also remove the current 20 cents fuel tax.

He says this will cost the Government approximately $56 million.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the prices remain volatile, and they will continue to monitor global crude oil prices and the events that are affecting them, such as the war in Ukraine.

He says in the same way, should crude oil prices stabilise, they may be able to reconsider this reduction.

From 31st August 2022, fiscal duty on imported liquid milk, full-cream powdered milk, yoghurt, cheese and butter will be reduced to 5% from the current 32%.

Fiscal duty rate on lunch boxes with a thickness of 1.88mm or more and which are not manufactured locally, water bottles, wheelie bins, meat patties and chicken nuggets, both raw and cooked, will be reduced from 32% to 5%.

Import Excise of 15% will also be removed from lunch boxes, water bottles and wheelie bins.

The Attorney General has also raised VAT on 21 items to 15%.

He says the increase in VAT to 15% will cover goods and services that previously attracted ECAL, such as prescribed services, white goods and motor vehicles, and will apply to all turnover in excess of $100,000.

ECAL will be removed and replaced by the adjusted VAT rate of 15% for these items.

He says the tax on an item that carried 9% VAT and 5% ECAL would increase by only one percent.

The additional list of goods and services to be taxed at 15% VAT includes alcohol, tobacco, textiles, clothing & footwear, perfumes, jewellery, watches, stereos and sound systems and other electrical equipment, and professional services such as legal and accounting, management and consultancy, architectural and engineering, scientific research and development, advertising and market research, veterinary activities and other professional, scientific and technical activities.


Minimum wage to increase to $4 an hour in four tranches

By Naveel Krishant
Friday 25/03/2022
[Image: File Photo]

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has announced they will increase the minimum wage to $4 an hour in four stages from its current level of $2.68.

While announcing the Revised Budget, Sayed-Khaiyum says from 1st April, 2022 the minimum wage will be starting from $3.01.

From 1st July it will start from $3.34 an hour, from 1st October it will start from $3.67 an hour while from 1st January 2023 it will be $4 an hour.

Sayed-Khaiyum further says for all the other 10 sectors, the minimum wage rate will also rise in tandem with new rates and topped up by the relative difference between the current national minimum wage rate and the sectoral wages.

He adds the current classification for the 10 sectors is decades-old and does not reflect the modern economy.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they have to recognise these shifts and align sectoral wages with market realities to ensure that people are paid just wages for the jobs they perform.

Meanwhile, for the next 3 years, the Government will provide, a 200% tax deduction to those employers who will be paying maternity leave for their staff, for the sake of the mothers of Fiji.

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Estimates

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Supplement



Wearing of masks is now optional and social distancing requirements no longer apply – AG

Govt will do away with the Travel Partner system as long as visitors are fully vaccinated, 3 night hotel stay to be removed
By Vijay Narayan
Friday 25/03/2022
[Image: File Photo]

From today, the wearing of masks will be optional, all venues may operate at full capacity and social distancing requirements will no longer apply.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says it is up to people to apply the more than two years of experience we have with COVID to do what makes them feel comfortable and safe.

While making the announcement during the 2021/2022 Revised Budget address,Sayed-Khaiyum also says from 7th April, 2022, incoming travellers have to provide a Rapid Antigen Test within 24 hours and the 3 nights hotel stay will be removed.

Sayed-Khaiyum says all visitors to Fiji will play by the same rules because from 7th April, the government will also do away with the Travel Partner system.

He says the most important thing is that visitors be vaccinated.

The Attorney General says if they are vaccinated, and if they test upon arrival, their country of origin is less important.

Meanwhile $700,000 has also been allocated for Tourism Fiji to bring back additional staff for 5 days a week.

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Estimates

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Supplement



Govt revenue estimated at $2.25b while expenditure is $3.72b in the revised Budget

Govt debt projected to reach 88.6%
By Dhanjay Deo
Friday 25/03/2022
Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [Image: Fijian Government]

Government’s total revenue is estimated at $2.25 billion while total expenditure is $3.72 billion for the 2021/2022 Revised Budget.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says this will result in a net deficit of $1.46 billion equivalent to 14.2% of GDP.

He says government debt is projected to reach 88.6 percent by the end of this fiscal year and based on the projected economic recovery and planned deficit reduction, the debt to GDP ratio is expected to come down to below 80% in the next 3 years.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they are expecting the economy to grow by 11.3 percent this year driven by the vaccination of Fijians and the reopening of our borders.

He says other independent economic analysts put the figure even higher.

The Minister for Economy adds it’s estimated to take three years until Fiji’s economy is restored to pre-pandemic levels.

Foreign reserves currently stand at around $3.2 billion, sufficient to cover 8.8 months of imports.

Sayed-Khaiyum says with their largest earner of foreign reserves, tourism, shut down, Fiji faced a real threat of devaluation but the proactive and robust policies by the government and the Reserve Bank of Fiji helped avoid a devaluation of the Fijian dollar.

He says had Fiji been forced to devalue, Fijians would be paying much higher prices today for everything.

Sayed-Khaiyum further says liquidity levels in the financial system stand at around $2.0 billion, and that supported the low-interest-rate environment. He adds with improved confidence levels and reduced uncertainty surrounding the virus, investment prospects are trending upward.

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Estimates

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Supplement




Full-time scholarships available for MBBS under Toppers Scheme effective from Semester 1 2022

TELS quota for Bachelor of Nursing will be increased to 350 to fill gaps created by resignations & migration of nurses
By Iva Danford
Friday 25/03/2022
[Image: File Photo]

The Government will now provide full-time scholarships under the National Toppers Scheme effective from Semester 1 2022 for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

While announcing this, the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says this will amend the existing scholarship regulation to include students who did Year 13 in 2020.

Sayed-Khaiyum says in the 2021-2022 National Budget, Government allocated funds for MBBS students who had privately enrolled and met the criteria for a one-off $10,000 Government Grant.

He says in February this year, 42 students were selected and can use the grant to clear off the fees for 2021.

Sayed-Khaiyum says to accommodate private MBBS students of 2021, the National Toppers Scheme will change to include those who did Year 13 in 2020, had marks of 340 and above, a GPA of 3.0 and above in 2021, and combined parental income of less than $100,000.

The Minister also announced that the quota for nursing was set for 100 students for the 2022 new intake, but this may not be sufficient given the fact that many nurses are resigning, either leaving the profession or relocating.

Sayed-Khaiyum says to fill the gaps created by resignations and migration of nurses, the TELS quota for Bachelor of Nursing will be increased to 350.

He says the accelerated Repayment Incentives for TELS students was introduced in the 2018/2019 Budget to offer TELS students heavy discounts for the early repayment of loans.

Sayed-Khaiyum for this initiative, the determination of the repayment period for discount eligibility will exclude 2020, 2021 and 2022.

He says the quota for TELS for degree programmes will now be increased from 2,000 to 2,942, with increased attention to areas such as Medicine and Health, Engineering, Science and Technology.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the government has considered a one-off temporary measure to reduce the TELS entry mark to 250, except for the Commerce category, where the cutoff mark will remain at 280 with a quota of 850, due to the oversupply of graduates.

He says programmes in the Commerce category will still require an entry mark of 300.

Sayed-Khaiyum says as of 21 March 2022, the Fiji Maritime Academy had opened its doors to start the new academic year, offering a Diploma in either Nautical Science or Marine Engineering, with a range of short courses to obtain a Certificate of Competency.

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Estimates

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Supplement



Fiji Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Services Centre will launch an improved implementation model for the Free Medicine Programme

The Free GP Scheme will now also include Free Dental Practitioners
By Naveel Krishant
Friday 25/03/2022
[Image: File Photo]

The Fiji Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Services Centre will launch an improved implementation model for the Free Medicine Programme in April this year.

Under the new model, participating private pharmacies will dispense listed medications from their own inventory and will be reimbursed by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

From today, GPs under the Public Private Partnership scheme will not be restricted from procuring medicine from the Government pharmacy.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the Free Medicine Programme is funded at $8 million.

The list of free medicines has expanded to cover 140 items, comprising 136 medicinal products and 4 consumable items, mainly wound dressing materials.

From early May, open-heart surgeries will be available at the Lautoka Hospital – marking the first time in history that this procedure will be available all days of the year in Fiji.

Sayed-Khaiyum says other benefits will be added in the coming months including cardiac catheterisation, chemotherapy and renal dialysis.

He says concurrently, work is being undertaken to build a new Lautoka Hospital at the current site with no interruption to service.

He says Ba Hospital will move from Ba Mission Hospital on 9th April and all current services delivered at the Ba Mission Hospital will be provided at the new upgraded Ba Hospital facility.

Government is allocating $13 million to operationalise the Public Private Partnership arrangement.

Government has also provided $1.2 million to continue to subsidise Kidney Dialysis Treatment programme.

To date, a total of 135 registered patients are receiving their subsidised kidney treatment under the Dialysis Treatment Programme at six facilities across Fiji.

Sayed-Khaiyum also says the Free GP Scheme will also now include Free Dental Practitioners, as they will now also be engaging the private dental practitioners to improve the oral health of all Fijians, including school-aged children.

He adds the cost of private dental services will be borne by the Fijian Government at an agreed price with individual dental practitioners and private medical dental centres and hospitals.

They will offer services like consultation, oral examination, extractions, and temporary and permanent fillings. Patients will be served faster, and dentists will expand their services to more patients through the same model as the Free GP programme.

$500,000 have been allocated for this initiative.

$200,000 has been allocated to incentivise private GPs to open up new surgeries or clinics in rural areas; such as areas like Nawaicoba, Malolo, Naidovi, Drasa, Sabeto, Seaqaqa, Dreketi and Nasarawaqa.

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Estimates

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Supplement



FRA allocated $338.2m

$5 million set aside to repair non-FRA roads that were damaged due to TC Cody and heavy rainfall
By Dhanjay Deo
Friday 25/03/2022
[Image: File Photo]

The Fiji Roads Authority has been allocated $338.2 million in the 2021-2022 Revised Budget of which $325.1 million will finance important capital programmes.

$60 million has been allocated to FRA for the renewal and replacement of severely deteriorated roads.

$34.02 million has been provided for maintenance and repair of bridges, and $14.5 million will fund ongoing contracts under the Rural Roads Programme.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they have also allocated $72.9 million for the maintenance of Fiji’s transport network and road assets such as drainage, footpaths, railings, signage, lights and signals.

$21.8 million has been set aside emergency restoration works to key infrastructure that suffered damage due to Tropical Cyclone Cody and other severe weather events.

Sayed-Khaiyum says due to damages to non-FRA roads since January 2022 due to TC Cody and heavy rainfall, FRA has been receiving requests for repair of these roads and other assets–mainly repair of community roads, crossings, culverts and clearing of drainage. He says $5 million has been allocated for rehabilitation of these roads. Under this allocation, priority will be given to those roads that provide access to hospitals, health centres, schools, settlements, communities and markets. Meanwhile, $102.1 million has been provided to rehabilitate major roads along Queens and Kings Highways, and complete the designs for the 40 critical bridges and three jetties–in Natovi, Savusavu and Nabouwalu.

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Estimates

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Supplement




WAF allocated money to specifically address water disruption issues in the Suva-Nausori corridor, Nadi, Lautoka and Labasa

$20 million allocated to ensure homes in the Central Division are connected to the EFL grid
By Semi Turaga
Friday 25/03/2022
[Image: File Photo]

$6.3 million has been allocated in the Revised 2021-2022 National Budget to the Water Authority of Fiji to address water disruption issues in the Suva-Nausori corridor, Nadi, Lautoka and Labasa.

In total, WAF is allocated $195.2 million.

$80.7 million is for operating expenditure and $114.5 million is for capital investment in water and wastewater network.

$40.9 million is allocated for the Viria Project which is planned to reduce the number and extent of water disruptions and other woes in the Greater Suva-Nausori corridor.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says despite delays as a result of COVID-19, construction is well underway and expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2023.

The total cost of the project is around $270 million.

Once completed, the project will increase the capacity of the Water Authority of Fiji in the Suva-Nausori area by 40 million litres per day, with the plant designed for an additional capacity of 40 million litres per day.

On electricity, it has been announced that the Government will ensure the households in the Central Division that do not have access to electricity in areas such as Korovou, Tailevu, Namosi, Naitasiri and Serua will be connected to the Energy Fiji Limited grid.

Sayed-Khaiyum says during the next three financial years, the Fijian Government will be allocating a sum of around $20 million to fund a total of 177 schemes for which survey and quotations have been completed by EFL.

This will benefit more than 10,000 Fijians living in areas such as Mavua, and Navuto in Sigatoka; Dratabu, Navuso, and some areas in Votualevu in Nadi; Abaca, Natawarau, Lovu, Tavakubu, and households without electricity living along Vuda Back Road in Lautoka; Balevuto, Moto, Vatusui, and Vakabuli in Ba; Waiqumu Settlement, Wairuku; Nadele, Nabuna, Toko, Vuniniurea in Tavua; Navolau, Tavuvatu, and Naqaqa in Rakiraki. For the Northern Division, areas such as Muqumuqumu, Bulileka, and Korotari in Labasa; Nabalebale, Matakunea, Nasavu, Natuvu, and Natua in Savusavu; Drekeniwai, and Burotu in Taveuni.

$6.1 million has been allocated to extend the grid to communities that are not currently served.

Sayed-Khaiyum has revealed that a total of 48 schemes will be implemented, with more than 5,000 Fijians to be benefited from the programme – 13 in the Central Division, 29 in the Western Division and 6 in the Northern Division.

A total budget of $9.7 million has been allocated for the Housewiring and Grid Extension Programme.

$3.65 million of that total is for the complete installation of proper wiring in homes that will connect to the EFL grid system which will benefit 42,486 people.

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Estimates

Click to read: 2021-2022 Revised Budget Supplement



A team from the Opposition will stay up all night to scrutinise the budget – Gavoka

Leader of SODELPA says this is an election budget
By Shanil Singh
Friday 25/03/2022
SODELPA Leader Viliame Gavoka

SODELPA Leader Viliame Gavoka says their team will be up the whole night scrutinising the budget, but what he sees is an election budget.

He says the budget is overly optimistic and a lot of the figures need to be scrutinised closely.

Gavoka claims the growth projected in the Revised Budget is unrealistic and the government is understating their expenditure.

He says the Opposition is unhappy with the time given to them to scrutinise the budget because it's an important part of running an economy.

He adds they will be ready later this morning.



Prof. Prasad says the measures announced in the budget is a little too late

By Shanil Singh
Friday 25/03/2022
National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad

National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says the measures announced in the Revised National Budget is a case of accepting what NFP has been saying for the last several years however it is a little too late.

Prasad says the reduction in VAT on 21 items is designed to cushion the effects of the rising cost of living but the impact of that on the reduction in the price would be very little because the freight cost remains high.

He says the 20 cents per litre fuel tax should never have been imposed and the benefits should have been passed on to the consumers when the prices were going down.

Prasad says the measures that have been put forward to decisively deal with the rising cost of living is too little, too late.

The NFP Leader says apart from the removal of VAT from 21 items and the removal of the 20 cents per litre fuel tax, there is nothing much in this budget.

He says this budget is an attempt to pacify the people because Government knows that the people are angry.




Govt to invest $6 million for 51% shareholding in Counter Ruck Pte Limited which was established by FRU to own and operate the Fijian Drua

By Naveel Krishant
Friday 25/03/2022
[Image: Fijian Drua]

The Fijian Government will invest $6 million for 51% shareholding in Counter Ruck Pte Limited, which was established by the Fiji Rugby Union to own and operate the Fijian Drua.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the Fiji Rugby Union had requested a grant, but Government is unable legally to give a grant to a private company.

He says they can, however, take a share in the company and divest it at a later date.

Sayed-Khaiyum adds through this Revised Budget, the government will allocate the first tranche investment of $3 million for 25.5 percent shareholding.

The second tranche investment of an additional $3 million will be undertaken by December 2022 to secure the total 51%.

By December 2022, the Fiji Rugby Union will own 49 percent shareholding while the Fijian Government will own 51 percent.

In addition, Counter Ruck Pte Limited will be granted a 13-year income tax holiday, and will be provided a waiver for customs duty on goods imported specifically for the establishment of Fijian Drua-related venues and the High-Performance Unit for the period 1st July 2022 to 30th June 2023. A 200 percent tax deduction is also provided for sponsorships above $250,000 to the Fijian Drua.




$100 unemployment assistance for people living in Vanua Levu

One-off assistance of $50 to all social welfare recipients in Fiji - AG
By Iva Danford
Friday 25/03/2022
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Unemployed people living in Vanua Levu will have the opportunity to apply for one-off assistance of $100 with the specifics to be announced soon.

The Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says in this budget they have allocated $13 million towards unemployment assistance for Vanua Levu.

Sayed-Khaiyum says this programme also includes one-off assistance of $50 to all social welfare recipients in Fiji.

He says the bus fare subsidy for the elderly and disabled will be increased from the current $10 to $25 per month at a total cost of $6 million dollars benefitting close to 40,000 Fijians.

Sayed-Khaiyum says in 2021, government provided $430 million through its unemployment assistance programme directly to more than 400,000 people in the formal and informal sectors.

He says this programme was targeted at the population in Viti Levu because of the prolonged lockdowns and restrictions on the island.




Govt is stepping in to assist Fijians and this is evident from the announcements in the Revised Budget – PM

PM says the opposition is out of touch and their analysis is nonsensical
By Vijay Narayan
Friday 25/03/2022
Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama - [Photo: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji]

Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama says the government is stepping in to assist Fijians and this is evident from the announcements in the Revised National Budget.

While supporting the budget, Bainimarama says despite what the opposition will say, people know what is the truth.

He says our economy is rebounding under difficult economic circumstances but the government is meeting these challenges as well.

Bainimarama says the government has suspended the fuel tax, adjusted the VAT and lowered or eliminated duties on many items all to help the citizens absorb the impact of higher global prices.

He says these higher prices will not last forever and they will adjust again.

The Prime Minister says the medical reforms will free the resources of our public system while giving Fijians more choice and access to more services.

Bainimarama says they are expanding access to private practitioners and dentists and they will break up the shameless system that has kept good doctors out of private practice.

He also says he is extremely proud of the reforms announced last night that will make the TLTB a more efficient organisation in the service of the landowners and tenants on the growth of the wider economy.

Bainimarama says iTaukei land is protected and will remain with the landowners forever.

Hbe also says developing these resources for their benefit is vital to our recovery, and when our landowners receive the right returns and tenants have security of tenure, Fijians succeed with them.

He says he under his chairmanship, he will ensure TLTB will not be working in isolation but working together for the benefit of all.

Bainimarama says as the President of the Fiji Rugby Union, he would not be more excited about the government becoming the major shareholder of the Fijian Drua.

He also says they are looking after the cane farmers despite world sugar prices not rising.

Bainimarama also says the opposition is out of touch with fellow Fijians and their analysis is nonsensical.

Debate on the Revised Budget continues in parliament.




The Revised Budget is an election budget – Opposition Leader

Ratu Naiqama says the FijiFirst Govt is desperate to make a huge impression on the people of Fiji
By Iva Danford, Naveel Krishant
Friday 25/03/2022
Opposition Leader Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu

Opposition Leader Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu says the Revised Budget presented last night is an election budget and has questioned how realistic are the revenue and expenditure figures stated in the budget taking into account the shortfall in revenue and under expenditure.

While opposing the Revised Budget, Ratu Naiqama says the FijiFirst Government is desperate to make a huge impression on the people of Fiji.

Ratu Naiqama adds it is interesting to note that the VAT for 21 basic items will be zero-rated and there will be an increase of VAT of 15% for 21 items.

Ratu Naiqama further says the poor will not only benefit from the zero-rated VAT items but also the rich.

He adds that the poor will have difficulties in accessing items such as textiles, clothing and footwear as 15% VAT will be imposed on those items.

Ratu Naiqama says they are happy with the $4 minimum wage rate which was initially proposed by the opposition.

He adds in the last 24 months they have seen 4 budgets presented which shows government just does not have the ability to plan anything and government has failed to lay out its 12 months revenue and expenditure proposal.

He says they are grateful for some of the announcements that were made last night.

Ratu Naiqama further says that it is the norm of the Attorney General to call the opposition unpatriotic, when they constructively criticize and suggest alternatives.

The Opposition Leader adds the Attorney General’s latest buzz word is un-Fijian and they suggest the AG must be more sensitive with the choice of words in the public domain particularly in Fiji's multi racial and cultural society.

He says there should be some incentives provided to the Fijians living abroad who have been sending remittances and supporting their motherland.

Ratu Naiqama adds that despite the claim of unprecedented growth in the last 15 years under the Bainimarama Government, the government cannot hide any more from the truth as our real GDP growth is the same level as we had in 2014.

The Leader of Opposition has also stressed that we will never be the same as Singapore or better than Australia and New Zealand as usually championed by the Minister of Economy.

He adds it is so sad and unprofessional for the Minister of Economy to continuously blame previous governments when things do not go right as the FijiFirst Government has been in power for more than 15 years and continue with the blame game like little kids rather than taking responsibility.

He further states that within 15 years, our debt level has ballooned to almost $9.6 billion which is in addition, to the contingency liability for the same period which has increased to $1.7 billion.

He says the claim that previous governments used to borrow money to pay for operating expenditure is a lie, mischievous, deceiving and amount to misleading the public.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will give his Right of Reply later today.




50,742 tourists have visited Fiji since 1st Dec last year

As we approach peak months, we expect these numbers to increase - Koya
By Semi Turaga
Friday 25/03/2022
Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya.

Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya says since the opening of the borders on 1st December last year, Fiji has welcomed 50,742 visitors.

He says over ninety percent of these visitors were from Australia and the US markets alone.

Koya adds as they approach the peak months, they expect these numbers to increase and fuel recovery.

The Minister further says with more markets opening up like New Zealand, they expect even more visitors.

He told parliament that they are now easing entry conditions alongside many other countries to remain competitive.

Koya adds with the removal of the Travel Partner classification, irrespective of where you come from, you’ll be bound by the same conditions.

He says they are basing this on the assurance that we are a highly vaccinated nation and anyone who comes is vaccinated with a negative COVID-19 test.

The Minister confirms that from 7th April, all a visitor to Fiji needs to do now is pre-book a Rapid Antigen Test for their 24-hour in-country test.

He says from today yachts can come from Denarau, Savusavu and Vuda marinas and they can do so without having to get the approval of the COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce.

The Minister says instead, they declare their interest directly with the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, as was the practice pre-COVID.

Koya adds to further support the Tourism Industry, they are maintaining the low taxes so that this is reflected in how they package and sell Fiji.

He further says with numbers picking up from next month they are going to ramp up marketing efforts.

The Minister says Tourism Fiji’s increase in marketing allocation of $893,000 to now $20.9 million and increase of $700,000 for operations now $6.9 million will help them over the next few months.

Koya also told parliament that they have been concerned with operations in the Fijian real estate industry.

He revealed that since 2018, over 90 complaints have been received by the Consumer Council of Fiji and the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board.

The Minister says most of these are related to the inconsistencies of the commissions rates, lack of professionally trained and experienced licensed agents.

He adds with the emerging trends and irregularities of the purchases and sales of properties, the Government has developed provisions to protect consumers and first-home buyers.

Koya says compared to international markets, commission rates charged by agents in Fiji, are towards the higher end.

He revealed that it ranges from 3 percent and as high as 25 percent of the total value of the property.

Koya adds in jurisdictions such as Australia and New Zealand markets the commissions are up to 5 percent.

He confirms that real estate agents in Fiji charging a commission of 2 percent on residential properties less than $1.5 million of the sale value will enable prices of properties to be maintained at a reasonable level.

Koya says this means Fijians will be able to afford to own a decent home without being ripped off by an agent.



Can Prof Prasad explain to students in other fields that are oversupplied with graduates why they haven’t received scholarships - Kumar

By Iva Danford
Friday 25/03/2022
Minister for Education Premila Kumar

Minister for Education Premila Kumar has asked the Leader of National Federation Party Professor Biman Prasad if he can explain to students in other fields that are oversupplied with graduates why they have not received scholarships.

Kumar highlighted this after Professor Prasad had said that Kumar's recent remarks on the student that scored the highest mark in the Year 13 exam that had wanted to study medicine and surgery but could not, is deplorable and disgusting.

While supporting the Revised National Budget in parliament today, Kumar has also questioned Professor Prasad if he can explain to the hundreds of law students why he is only pushing for MBBS scholarships and not LLB scholarships.

She says the National Toppers Scheme’s role is to enable the government to strengthen sectors of the economy where employees are needed by providing scholarships for students seeking an education in those fields.

She says it is to ensure that the gaps in underserved economic sectors in Fiji are filled, so they have enough engineers, pharmacists, lab technicians, nurses, and agricultural specialists to keep the nation progressing.

Kumar says they are investing in students not just for them to attain higher education but also making sure that they get into areas that offer better job prospects and of course, meet Fiji’s needs.

She adds that this is a common-sense based and practical initiative to provide support for those sectors where there is demand.

Kumar says the Ministry welcomes new policy announcements any initiatives pertaining to TSLS.

She says given the circumstances faced by Year 13 students, the lowering of the top marks for TSLS awards to 250, except for commerce category, this will allow more students to enter tertiary institutions.

Kumar says TSLS is a statutory body which is governed by the board and it has its own CEO which does its own due diligence by caring out their surveillance, research and fact finding.

She says that is when they are able to either increase or decrease a particular quota.

Kumar says the regulation for TSLS is very clear and it simply says that if a quota is not filled, then TSLS can reduce the marks to fill the quota.

She says it is very important for TSLS to consider Fiji's needs when it comes to giving scholarships or giving loans for these studies.

Kumar said in parliament that it is common knowledge that CFL and Fiji Times will provide headlines for NFP on statements from government ministers in a negative way and many times commenting without due care on the context of the statement.

The Nadi Sangam College student had scored 395 out of 400 and had wanted to study medicine and surgery but could not do this as there was no National Toppers scholarship that caters for this program.

When earlier questioned if the Ministry will consider giving her a scholarship in the area since she scored the highest mark, Kumar had said they need to focus on areas where there is employability.

Meanwhile, CFL stations, Legend FM, FM96, Viti FM, Navtarang and Radio Sargam and website, fijivillage always stand for balance, fairness and accuracy. CFL does not support any politician or political party and also does not stand for or support any form of discrimination against any particular individual.




The old school way of lining up at a health centre is now beginning to go out of the window – Dr Waqainabete

By Shanil Singh
Friday 25/03/2022
Health Minister Doctor Ifereimi Waqainabete. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

Health Minister Doctor Ifereimi Waqainabete says the old school way of lining up at a health centre is now beginning to go out of the window.

While supporting the Revised National Budget, Dr Waqainabete says the General Practitioners Scheme has become very important because it increases the access to primary health care services.

He says we all should be happy that our people will be provided with the next available health facility whether it be a General Practitioner or a health centre.

Dr Waqainabete says the Minister for Economy had earlier said that we are moving towards having a doctor looking after a person or a family and that is what family medicine is all about.

The Health Minister says he is grateful for the appropriation of $200,000 to have this service in rural areas such as Nawaicoba, Malolo, Drasa, Sabeto, Seaqaqa and Dreketi.

He also says involving private dental practitioners in the GP Subsidy Scheme is another step forward towards increasing access for our people.



Govt is so arrogant that it is ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of the people’s money without letting the reps look closely at how they are spending it - Pro Prasad

By Iva Danford
Friday 25/03/2022
Leader of the National Federation Party Professor Biman Prasad

The Leader of the National Federation Party Professor Biman Prasad says this government is so arrogant that it is ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of the people’s money without letting the representatives of the people look closely at how they are spending it.

While opposing the Revised Budget, he says government ministers wander throughout the country any time they want, while people wait for them.

Professor Prasad says they behave as if they are more important than anyone else, that only their time is valuable.

He says if the Ministers were employees in a business, they would be fired for this attitude.

Professor Prasad says these Ministers work for the people of Fiji and when the time comes later this year, the people of Fiji cannot wait to fire them.

He says that is why the government is afraid that if they have a chance to look at this Budget properly they will draw to the people’s attention the failures, the broken promises and the incompetence in their past performance.

Professor Prasad says the Minister for Economy wants to come into parliament to praise himself for two hours and throw around economic goodies and then rush away.

He says Sayed-Khaiyum does not want to listen to scrutiny and criticism and how things could be done better.

The Leader of NFP says Sayed-Khaiyum is short of ideas now and he just taking the NFP’s ideas.

Professor Prasad says if that is the case, it is time to hand over the reins.

He adds some cornerstones of the Minister’s revised Budget are Zero VAT on basic food and consumer items, the big increase in the minimum wage to be introduced in stages have been NFP’s policies for years and the Minister has ridiculed and criticised these policies for years.

Professor Prasad says the 20 cents fuel surcharge that will be taken away to relieve the burden of costs on the people was what NFP called for three months ago.

While responding to Sayed-Khaiyum’s address where he stated that only fools will be those who oppose VAT going to zero on 21 everyday items, Professor Prasad asks who is the fool who opposed the NFP manifesto on zero VAT.



Bus operators will probably get the fare increase but it has to go through an independent process - AG

By Semi Turaga, Shanil Singh
Saturday 26/03/2022
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the Fiji Bus Operators Association is not telling the public that they can go through the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission to ask for a bus fare increase.

He says in fact, the Fiji Bus Operators Association has a meeting with the FCCC next Tuesday because they have asked for a fare rise.

In his right of reply during the Revised 2021-2022 Budget debate, Sayed-Khaiyum says the Association will probably get the bus fare increase but it has to go through that independent process.

He says the Association is threatening Government and threatening Fiji that they have not done enough in the budget for the bus operators.

He says the Government is trying to ensure that there are transparent systems.

The Fiji Bus Operators Association is disappointed that no relief has been granted to them in the Revised Budget to help the industry remain afloat during a time when the cost of doing business has increased substantially.

In a statement, they say if no further relief is offered, bus operators will reluctantly have to consider taking action to mitigate the difficult operating environment.

The Association says there will be disruptions to bus services if government is unable to assist the bus industry alleviate the impact of rising operating costs.

They are asking the public to understand the hugely difficult position the industry is in and bear with them during this time.

The Association says they had hoped that in the absence of a bus fare increase, at least duty free fuel would be granted to bus companies.

They say the removal of the 20 cents fuel tax is meaningless since fuel price is expected to increase on 1st April, the day the removal comes into effect.

The Association says the Minister for Economy himself has stated that freight costs have increased all round and since bus operators are unable to pass on any of these increased costs for fuel, spare parts and lubricants, it will be immensely difficult to maintain safe and comfortable operations.

They say bus operators are meeting with the Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission next week to discuss the level of bus fares and they are hoping for a positive outcome from the meeting.



The Opposition does not care – AG

Sayed-Khaiyum claims fijivillage is the latest favorite media outlet of the NFP Leader and labels People’s Alliance as Paapi which means sinner in Hindi
By Semi Turaga
Saturday 26/03/2022
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says there has been no constructive response from the Opposition on the 2021-2022 Revised National Budget.

In his right of reply, Sayed-Khaiyum says it has been so difficult to respond because it would appear the ordinary Fijian has far better grasp of what the government is trying to implement and do.

He says the Opposition is purely trying to acquire power and not to improve systems and ensure economic longevity.

Sayed-Khaiyum also claimed that fijivillage is the latest favorite media outlet of NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad.

The Minister for Economy says the Opposition does not care.

CFL stations, Legend FM, FM96, Viti FM, Navtarang and Radio Sargam and website, fijivillage always stand for balance, fairness and accuracy.

CFL does not support any politician or political party and also does not stand for or support any form of discrimination against any particular individual.



Nawaikula says the purpose of the Revised Budget was to give election goodies

By Dhanjay Deo
Saturday 26/03/2022
SODELPA MP, Niko Nawaikula.

SODELPA MP, Niko Nawaikula says their message to the voters is to take advantage of the initiatives announced by the Government however they are not supporting the Revised Budget because they will give people much more than this when they come into power.

Nawaikula says the over collection in government revenue was largely attributed to $185.9 million in non-tax cash inflows from budget support from Australia and New Zealand.

He says Fiji did not earn this money but was a result of aid and donation through direct budget support.

Nawaikula says many government ministries did not spend their budget allocation and they were told yesterday this was the savings.

He says the purpose of the Revised Budget was to give election goodies.

Nawaikula has also questioned why the government is now announcing zero rated VAT for 21 items.



Revised Budget is trying to address some issues that led to severe water disruptions - Usamate

By Dhanjay Deo
Saturday 26/03/2022
Minister for Infrastructure Jone Usamate.[Image: Parliament of Fiji]

Minister for Infrastructure, Jone Usamate says the Revised Budget is trying to address some of the issues that led to severe water disruptions in the greater Suva area in the past few months.

Usamate says about $3.9 million has been provided to address the issues which includes work on valve operations, controlling the amount of pressure as to where the water is going in the system and buying of emergency water tanks that can be put in densely populated areas.

He adds the money will also be used to purchase bulk main repair clamps to minimise the disruption while repair works are being carried out.

The Minister says part of the money will also be used to install pressure reducing valves to regulate pressure in the system along the upper Tovata system.

He says the Viria Water Project is the long term solution.

Meanwhile, Usamate says there is a huge cost of floods on our roads.

He says this year the FRA has estimated it will cost them around $100 million to completely rehabilitate the roads damaged by the floods earlier in the year.



Govt has shown that behind the chest beating and long speeches is their chronic inability to get things done right - Qereqeretabua

By Shanil Singh
Saturday 26/03/2022
National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua.

National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua says the FijiFirst Government has shown us time and time again that behind all the puffery, the chest beating and the long winded speeches is their chronic inability to get things done right.

While speaking in Parliament, Qereqeretabua says the budget reflects the government's character of being strung along by short-term gains rather than long-term vision.

She says our economy was already slowing before COVID ever existed where growth was slumping, wages were stagnant, productivity was declining, investment was slowing and debt was rising.

Qereqeretabua says yet this government had the temerity to try and convince all of us that everything was okay and the promises just kept coming.

The NFP MP says as the nation waited with bated breath for the delivery of the revised budget, some of us waited without having had a decent meal, without water in our taps and some of us waited while thinking about what our children would have for lunch.

She says when the NFP was going to introduce a living wage, the government said they cannot afford it and when the NFP wanted to have 23 basic items VAT exempt, government through FRCS Board Chairperson Ajith Kodagoda said that it will not benefit any Fijian and that its implementation would be chaotic.

Qereqeretabua says just 3 months ago when they wanted a removal of the 20 cents fuel tax, the Attorney General is on record saying the idea was stupendously stupid.

During his right of reply, Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says NFP had recommended VAT exemption but there was no VAT monitoring system and that was how people were fleecing the system.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they have placed a VMS system since then to monitor items in the supermarket because people can cook the books but there will be better accountability with a VMS system.

He says they cannot just reduce the 20 cents fuel tax overnight without having another revenue source.

Sayed-Khaiyum says there is a $163 million reduction in government revenue as a result of removing VAT from 21 items.

Qereqeretabua also says the only choice for those who cannot afford to jet off overseas every time they need quality medical care is to rely on our health system at home.

She says for many people this is a death sentence.

Qereqeretabua then went on to say that whether you are in government or out of it, if you have been involved in corruption, they will come down hard on you. She adds it is clear that this is the budget of a government desperately gasping for its last breaths but there is no doubt nothing will save them now.



Opposition should stop telling lies - Adimaitoga

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Saturday 26/03/2022
Assistant Minister for I-Taukei Affairs Selai Adimaitoga.

Assistant Minister for I-Taukei Affairs Selai Adimaitoga is calling on the Opposition to stop telling lies to the people of Fiji because inflation has increased all around the world due to the war in Ukraine.

While supporting the Revised 2021/2022 National Budget, Adimaitoga says the country is seeing the direct effects of COVID and the war between Russia and Ukraine.

She adds this budget is proof that the FijiFirst government listens to the people and many of the benefits were the direct feedback during the nationwide consultation.

Adimaitoga says the removal of fuel tax lifts the burden from Fijians and this is a smart move considering the current global climate.

She claims that People’s Alliance Party Leader Sitiveni Rabuka is the true leader for the National Federation Party.

Adimaitoga further says that the Government understands cane farmers better than the Opposition.

The Assistant Minister is urging the Opposition to stop spreading fake news because it hurts the people who believe them.



Revised 2021-2022 National Budget passed in parliament

By Semi Turaga
Saturday 26/03/2022
[Image: Parliament of Fiji]

The Revised 2021-2022 National Budget of $3.3 billion for the ordinary services of Government until 31st July 2022 has been passed in parliament.

There was opposition to the motion and members of parliament voted through acclamation last night.

Speaker Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has adjourned parliament to Monday - 4th April 2022.



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