Fiji has lost around 50,000 people who have gone overseas for employment or went on student visas between January 2022 to October this year.
This has been revealed by Permanent Secretary for Finance, Shiri Gounder during a panel discussion in the Top Executive or TOPEX Conference in Nadi.
Based on the Immigration Department figures, Gounder says 16,967 Fijians left our shores in 2022 after getting work permits to work overseas while 13,626 Fijians left on work permits between January to October this year.
For student visas, 6,202 Fijians left in 2022 while 9,670 left for education or training between January to October this year.
Gounder has sounded warning bells and says this is massive and if this trend continues it will choke the economy.
He says they don't have exact numbers but this is already weighing heavily on growth and productivity.
While speaking on the economy, Gounder says 4 years have been lost in the COVID crisis.
He says we are back to the trend growth that we have seen in Fiji in the past.
That is 3.4 percent for next year and around 3 percent in the years ahead.
But Gounder says if we grow at 3 percent, it will take us 23 years to double the size of the economy.
He says if we grow at 5 percent, it will take us 14 years to double the economy and if 7 percent, it will take us 10 years.
With growth projected at 3 percent, there is a number of downside risks.
The Permanent Secretary says the current capacity constraints in the tourism industry is expected to keep annual visitor arrivals growth at around 3 percent, slightly lower than the trend before the pandemic.
Apart from this, Gounder says we need to carefully watch the competitiveness of the tourism industry (prices) and implications for monetary tightening in Australia and New Zealand.
He says we are also seeing some readjustment in spending patterns due to inflation dynamics and also businesses reacting to it with its own responses.
Gounder says we need to also see how this will play out.
He says we also have the disasters, implications from the conflict in Ukraine and Middle East, monetary tightening in major advanced countries, etc.
In line with the theme of the conference to "challenge ourselves in the areas that matter", Gounder says the question is what do we do moving forward, how do we protect the 3 percent in light of the risks and how do we raise it to 5 percent or even higher.
Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations