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National Budget 2020-2021

National Budget 2020-2021

By fijivillage
Wednesday 15/07/2020

Full coverage of 2020-2021 National Budget including budget consultation from different sectors.

Major changes announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget.

2020-2021 Budget Resources

AddressEstimatesSupplement
Revenue PoliciesCustoms Tariff Act


Budget attempts to stimulate the ailing economy – Dialogue Fiji

By Naveel Krishant
Thursday 23/07/2020
Dialogue Fiji Executive Director Nilesh Lal.

Dialogue Fiji says the government, through the 2020-21 National Budget, has announced some decisive measures to attempt to stimulate the ailing economy and they note that there have been some significant reductions in operational expenditure however, they feel that pay cuts and salary caps for those paid from the public coffers should have been implemented.

Dialogue Fiji Executive Director, Nilesh Lal says when expansionary budgets are formulated, reducing wasteful expenditure and inefficiencies should always be an objective.

He says it does not do any good for an economy on life support which the government hopes to revive through consumption spending for some individuals to be hoarding money.

Lal further says this is happening in the case of those on super salaries adding when we are taking a gamble with such a bold budget, we need to utilize every measure, whatever the degree of its impact may be, to achieve the intended outcomes.

He adds the budget has also not increased allocations to grow the primary sectors of the economy like agriculture, as many expected.

Lal says they understand that the government does not perceive that these sectors have the potential to expand substantially in the short term.

He also says given the expenditure limits, it is understandable that government measures have focused on sectors that have greater potential to expand immediately. He however says as the economy stabilizes, they believe that the diversification of the economy needs to be pursued with much greater resolve.

Lal says some of these measures are very bold especially in terms of their impacts on government revenue.

Lal further says it is apparent that the government has been uninhibited in relation to the budget deficit and public debt, which were primary considerations when formulating national budgets in past years.

He adds given the extremely difficult circumstances, it is commendable that the Minister for Economy and his team have been able to secure the financial resources including from external sources to deliver a stimulus budget.

Lal says this has enabled the Economy Minister to deliver a budget that has generally exceeded expectations of Fijians.

He further says as they had stated earlier, protecting businesses from insolvency remained the most sustainable way to saving jobs and maintaining household incomes and this budget has sought to do that.

Lal also says the wide-ranging incentives and concessions provided to businesses will hopefully provide the boost that some struggling businesses desperately needed and continue to keep them operational, or even thrive.

He says such measures can only succeed if business sentiment and confidence in the economy is maintained adding if we undermine confidence in our economy or create doubts about the ability of these measures to stimulate aggregate demand, we can frustrate government efforts in this regard.

Lal says that is why it is critical for all Fijians to be positive and optimistic given the fragile economic environment.

He adds overall, the 2020-21 national budget is an excellent one (and ingenious in some respects) given the circumstances, and has the potential to stimulate an economy in recession and provide the critical boost for expansion in domestic sectors to compensate for losses in sectors such as tourism.

Meanwhile, Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said in the budget address that in the COVID-19 Response Budget, they announced that government ministers and parliamentarians were taking the first salary cut of 20 per cent in light of dramatic hits to government revenue.

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He had said that they didn’t do that because it saved a large sum of money; they did it to stand in solidarity with all those reeling for COVID’s job-killing impact.

He had said that pay cut, will remain through the next year.

Sayed-Khaiyum had also announced they will also be cutting salaries for all Permanent Secretaries and the CEOs and Heads of Commissions and Independent Bodies by 10%, effective from 1st August 2020. This will not apply to the legislature and judiciary as the other two independent arms of the state.

He had mentioned that for the rest of the civil service, even given the historic pay rises through recent years, they aren’t cutting salaries adding pay cuts started with the leadership, and that’s where the biggest cuts have stopped, because that’s what leaders do.

Sayed-Khaiyum had announced but they were taking some measures to reduce spending.

He said they will be reducing meal allowances from $20 to $10; instead of paying overtime, they will be giving time off in lieu of overtime; they will be suspending the rural housing allowance; and bundled insurance will now only apply to social welfare recipients.




2020/2021 National Budget will help people make a living - Anil Senewiratne

By Vijay Narayan, Pratika Mala, Shanil Singh
Thursday 23/07/2020
Courts Fiji’s Chief Marketing Officer Anil Senewiratne.

Courts Fiji’s Chief Marketing Officer Anil Senewiratne says retail prices of white goods and other products in their stores will come down in line with the reduction in duties announced by the government.

With the reduction announced in ECAL and other duties by the Minister for Economy, Courts Fiji is ready to pass down the new lower prices that will come into effect from the 1st of August this year.

He also says the 2020/2021 National Budget is a very robust budget and at the end of the day it all revolves around putting food on the table.

Senewiratne says this is a budget to stimulate the economy.

He says the formal sector has been most affected and the people from the formal sector are getting into the informal sector.

He adds people have been pushed to think outside the box and create their own opportunities through the micro, small and medium business incentive.

Senewiratne says two things about these businesses are very critical, one the skills set and the other financial literacy.

He says the people from the tourism sector which is one of the worst affected already have the skills set.

He adds all Courts Fiji stores remain open and nobody has been made redundant.




$4.5 million to be used for development of Wakanisila in Nasinu

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Thursday 23/07/2020
Minister for Local Government Premila Kumar - [Photo: Jone Usamate Twitter Page]

$4.5 million will be invested by the government in the development of Wakanisila community in Nasinu under the informal settlements initiative.

Minister for Local Government Premila Kumar has assured the community of Wakanisila that they are close to finalising the details for the development of their community under the informal settlements initiative.

While visiting the area, Kumar says they are anticipating that by the end of this month they will get the plans from the engineers.

She says they have done several things in terms of the processes and procedures in the development of Wakanisila.

Kumar says they have completed the first step of the development process and now they are working with the engineering team on the plans.

The Minister says they have also completed the scheme plan and this has been approved by the Town and Country planning team and they currently undertaking the Environment Impact Assessment.




Why FBC received their grant although their annual audit report has not been tabled since 2017, no need to have new PM’s office and why give funds to debt ridden Fiji Airways - Chaudhry

By Shanil Singh
Wednesday 22/07/2020
Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry

The Fiji Labour Party is questioning why the annual grant to the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation has been maintained at $11.27 million while many other organisations were forced to accept a cut while FBC CEO, Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they have submitted all their audited reports up to 2019.

In a statement, Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry claims this is unacceptable considering FBC has not tabled its annual report and audited accounts since 2017.

Chaudhry is questioning as to why grants to FBC has not been suspended when the government promptly suspends grants to schools if their accounts are not submitted when due.

He says there is more reason for this to be done because of the close relationship of the Attorney General with the CEO of FBC.

When questioned by Legend FM News, FBC CEO Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says all external audit reports up to the financial year ending 31st December 2019 have been submitted to the Ministry of Economy and the Department of Public Enterprises.

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Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the aspect of annual audit is well covered in the Public Service Broadcast contract which the FBC has consistently complied with.

Chaudhry is also questioning whether the expenditure of $7 million for the construction of the office building for the Prime Minister should be put to better use.

He says while there may be some justification for a new office complex for the Prime Minister, the fact remains that there are other pressing priorities which should take precedence over it.

He also claims that the $60 million provided under the Recovery Rebate Package is a contrived method of channeling fresh funds to the debt ridden Fiji Airways.

Chaudhry says heavily discounted holiday fares and hotel packages have for long been a feature of our marketing strategy to lure Australians and New Zealanders to Fiji and the same packages could be used in the future.

Chaudhry adds the cost of renting office accommodation has risen exponentially under this government and a further increase of $8m is proposed in this Budget which takes the total annual cost from $27m to $35m.

He is questioning on how rents for government offices are going up when the property market has been down since late 2018.

We have contacted Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum however he has not responded to our questions.




Major drop-in prices of alcohol with some providing specials

By Semi Turaga
Wednesday 22/07/2020

Some liquor outlets as well as supermarkets are now selling alcohol at really low prices and even providing specials to reflect the reductions in Excise Duty announced in the 2020-2021 National Budget.

Paradise Beverages Limited has also released a price list of its products reflecting the reductions.

This new price list was for its customers who are holders of permits for the sale of alcohol-related products.

It was released last Saturday and Paradise Beverages Limited says the pricing and related details are for licensed customers and not for public circulation.

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Based on this new price list by Paradise Beverages Limited, some supermarkets and liquor outlets have changed their prices.

A stubby previously cost $3.50 to $4.00 in some of these outlets now costs $2.45 to $2.60.

Most of the supermarkets are now selling a carton of stubbies for $58.80 with some even selling as low as around $53.

Based on the new factory VAT inclusive price list by Paradise Beverages Limited, a carton of stubbies costs $50.80.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had announced in the budget that they were halving excise taxes on alcohol to allow hotels, resorts, bars, and restaurants to pass on those savings directly to consumers.




FCCC tells businesses to pass down tax and duty reductions to consumers

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 22/07/2020
Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission CEO Joel Abraham. [image: FCCC/Facebook]

Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission CEO, Joel Abraham says they have already started work to ensure that duty and tax reductions announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget are passed down to the consumers.

Abraham says the new prices for alcohol are effective from Saturday July 18th and the retailers should be dropping the prices from the time they get the new stock from alcohol brewing companies while prices of other items are expected to drop from August 1st this year.

Abraham says they will also assess the landed cost of materials that contribute to the input cost of goods. He says if the duty for syrup is reduced and this is used for fizzy drinks, they will assess how the reduction is factored in.

He also says that businesses should not misrepresent to consumers and do not pocket the benefits from the reduction of other taxes.

They will assess the supply chain to ensure the duty is passed on the importer, the wholesaler, the retailer and the consumer.

He says there are certain goods that are kept in bonded houses and the cost of these goods will come down when that happens.

Abraham stresses that they will do fair assessments for the businesses and consumers.

He also says the commission knows the alcohol companies have released their VAT Inclusive factory prices, and the retailers are expected to put their mark ups and then set the retail prices.

The best prices are expected to be determined by competition, location of the retailers, size of the businesses and the costs associated with it and the mark up percentages.





$85 per tonne cane payment for farmers will stay – Yogesh Karan

By Pratika Mala
Wednesday 22/07/2020
Permanent Secretary for Sugar, Yogesh Karan

Permanent Secretary for Sugar, Yogesh Karan says the guaranteed cane price of $85 per tonne will remain and has also asked cane farmers not to panic.

Karan says the guaranteed cane price of $70 per tonne is for the first three cane payments of the season for the 2020/2021 financial year.

He says the $15 per tonne shortfall of the first three cane payments will be made up in the fourth and final wash-up cane payment in October 2021, which falls in the next financial year, with the government paying the remaining balance.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum announced in his 2020/2021 National budget speech that for two straight seasons, government paid cane growers $85 per tonne but in the final third season of the arrangement, they will be reducing the guaranteed price for cane from $85 to $70.

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Karan says he thinks the Economy Minister did not have time to explain in detail the methodology of the payments in his budget speech.

He adds farmers who face financial difficulties in loan repayments due to the first three payments of $70 per tonne can always approach the Ministry.

Meanwhile the Sugar Cane Growers Council says their office has received numerous calls from cane farmers in regards to lowering of guaranteed sugar cane price from $85 to $70 a tonne.

CEO Sunil Chaudhry says many farmers had taken loans and made other financial commitments based on the guaranteed price and are now feeling pressured.

The Ministry of Sugar is allocated a total of $53.6 million in the 2020/21 National Budget.




Fiji Sports Commission to hold meetings with sporting bodies this week on the allocation of funds

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Tuesday 21/07/2020
Fiji National Sports Commission Executive Chairman Peter Mazey. [image: file]

The Fiji Sports Commission will be meeting with different sporting bodies this week to get clarification on the amount of funds that will be distributed to them next week.

Fijivillage has received information that the Fiji Rugby Union had submitted that they wanted $1.7 million to focus on the preparation for the Men’s and Women's 7s teams to the Olympic Games next year.

According to the 2020/2021 National Budget Estimates, the Fiji Sports Commission has been allocated $970,465 with $1 million allocated for overseas sports tournaments.

Fiji National Sports Commission Executive Chairman Peter Mazey says the sporting bodies had submitted their budget proposal in February.

Mazey says they expect to distribute the funds to these sporting bodies by next week.




Fiji’s borrowing is in line with the global trends – Institute of Accountants

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 21/07/2020
FIA President Nitesh Lal. [image: FIA]

The Fiji Institute of Accountants has today commended the National Budget 2020/2021, congratulated the government for delivering such a people and business-centric budget, and says Fiji is still well placed with the borrowing ratio.

FIA President Nitesh Lal says this is such a courageous budget.

Lal says the budget has taken into account the interests of the wide range of stakeholders and sets the right strategies towards our road to recovery from the catastrophic effects of COVID-19.

He says this is a well thought, broad-based budget which goes deep into the various sectors of our economy.

The Fiji Institute of Accountants President says the budget caters well for the people, the businesses and many sectors of our economy requiring assistance now.

Lal says business sectors will benefit from the large tax cuts and rebates, duty abolishment and reductions. He says a significant amount of incentives and opportunities are also available for investments in the construction sectors, medical and health services and sub-division projects.

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He also says support to micro, small and medium businesses will continue through the highly concessionary loan packages.

Lal says for individuals there is no increase in PAYE, VAT and other taxes, and the $30,000 threshold for PAYE tax exemption remains.

The accountants also say there are great incentives for first home buyers and Fijians can directly benefit from the reduction in duties for white goods, motor vehicles and many other items.

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Lal says it is now the responsibility of the traders to pass the benefit of these reductions to the market.

The Institute notes that a significant portion of the budget will be funded from external sources.

Lal says the borrowing is in line with the global trend and benchmarking with other well-developed countries as we are still well placed with the borrowing ratio.

The Institute says the government has announced that they will be borrowing at very concessional terms.

The net deficit for the 2020/2021 National Budget is $2 billion or 20.2 percent of GDP, a result of the total government revenue of $1.673 billion and total government expenditure of $3.674 billion.

The government’s total debt stock is estimated to be around $8.256 billion or 83.4 percent of GDP.

Government debt as at this month is forecast to reach $6.7 billion or 65.6 percent of GDP due to an increased borrowing limit in the 2019/2020 COVID-19 Response Budget to accommodate a higher deficit of 8.2 percent. The significant increase in debt to GDP is also attributed to the downward revision of nominal GDP given the massive economic contraction projected for this financial year.

Lal says they also note that the tourism sector has received the much needed assistance in this budgetary process and they encourage the government to continue to work and focus on other sectors in order to diversify our economy further.

He says they would also like to acknowledge Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and his team for reviewing their submission, considering their input and its impact on the economy in moving the country forward.

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The Institute says they look forward to working with relevant stakeholders and assisting where required to make our road to recovery from the economic effects of COVID-19 a smoother transition.







Fiji FA commends govt for removing minimum threshold for tax deduction for sports sponsorship

By Dhanjay Deo
Tuesday 21/07/2020
Fiji FA’s CEO Mohammed Yusuf

The Fiji Football Association has commended government for removing the $10,000 minimum threshold for 150 percent tax deduction for sports sponsorship.

According to the 2020/2021 National Budget, any sponsor which donates to a Fiji National Sports Commission recognised entity will receive a 150% tax deduction, with no threshold.

Fiji FA’s CEO, Mohammed Yusuf says people can now sponsor teams for as low as $500 or a lesser amount and if the sponsor goes through the Fiji FA, they will be able to qualify for the 150 percent tax exemption.

He says this initiative will greatly help smaller clubs who now can get sponsorship.

Yusuf adds that the reduction of customs duties on over 1,600 items will also help sporting bodies who get sports equipment from overseas.




Unemployment benefit of people to be reviewed after 5 weeks - Sayed-Khaiyum

By Dhanjay Deo
Tuesday 21/07/2020
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum confirms the unemployment benefits announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget will be for five weeks after an application is made and an assessment will be done after five weeks to ascertain what has happened to the person who is receiving the benefit.

He says people may get re-employed after the five week period and this is the kind of checks and balances they have to put in place.

Under this scheme, those whose working days or hours have been reduced will receive $44 per fortnight for every day they are no longer working.

Those who are fully unemployed will continue to get $220 per fortnight.

Those whose working days or hours have been reduced will receive $44 per fortnight for every day they are no longer working.

So, if you are now only working three days a week, you will receive $88 every two weeks; if you’re down to working only one day a week, you will receive $176 every two weeks.

Sayed-Khaiyum says if people have money in their FNPF general account, then they can source the benefits from there and if they do not have sufficient funds, then government will top it up.

He adds that they are moving away from lump sum payment or withdrawals because a lot of people have complained that when lump sum payments are made, some people are tempted to buy things like TV.

He says if payments are on a fortnightly basis, it is essentially like getting a pay.

Government has made $100 million available to make sure every unemployed Fijian is able to access their full relief payments.




The current priority of families is not to use their hard-earned money to purchase white goods and luxury items in abundance – NFP Leader

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 21/07/2020
National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad

National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says the reduction and elimination of duty on 1,600 items will not have a positive impact on the livelihood of the ordinary workers and citizens and the many thousands of workers who have lost their jobs.

Prasad says basic food items like rice, flour, tea, garlic and onions as well medicine was already duty-free but people will still have the burden of paying 9% VAT on them.

He says while the list of 1,600 items also have food items, an overwhelming majority of them are luxury foods.

Prasad says at the same time the 32% duty on milk and butter have not been reduced.

He says this means people still are being forced to pay 41% in taxes in the form of 32% duty plus 9% VAT.

The NFP Leader says one wonders if this is to do with the long-term protection given to a local company.

He says edible oil still carries a 15% duty with concessions available to retailers, and lentils or dhal, another basic food item still carries a duty of 5%.

Prasad says the prudent measure to cushion the impact of high cost of living to the ordinary workers and citizens and the unemployed would have been to remove VAT on basic food items and prescription medicine.

He says in normal economic times, reduction in duty on such a large range of imported goods would have led to an increase in consumption.

Prasad says right now people are worried about putting food on the table for their families. He says this is their priority, not to use their hard-earned money to purchase white goods and luxury items in abundance.

The NFP Leader says the government’s expectation that this reduction would raise consumption demand and increase VAT revenue may be misplaced and unrealistic.




WAF will not disconnect Fijians affected by COVID-19 despite reduction in budget allocation for 2020/2021

By Rashika Kumar
Tuesday 21/07/2020

The Water Authority of Fiji says they will not disconnect Fijians who are genuinely impacted by COVID-19.

WAF has been allocated $195.4 million in the 2020/2021 National Budget compared to an allocation of $258.7 million in the 2019/2020 National Budget.

According to the 2020/2021 National Budget Estimates, water supply capacity in the Greater Suva Area is expected to increase by 26% and wastewater-treatment capacity by 164% through the Urban Water Supply and Wastewater Management Project is designed to improve vital urban infrastructure and services.

As part of the project, a new 40 megalitre treatment plant in Viria, Rewa and intake pumping station and 10 megalitre Waitolu reservoir and bulk water mains is expected to be completed in the next financial year.

Blended funding provided by the Asian Development Bank ($10.6 million), European Investment Bank ($6.9 million), the Green Climate Fund ($9.2 million), and local sources ($24.1 million) has made this immense project possible.

27,913 households have benefited from Government’s free water initiative, which will continue to expand in this financial year.

$4.8 million has been allocated to improve water distribution systems.

Government is providing $24.5 million to further improve water treatment quality; $1.5 million for the replacement of water meters; $2.6 million for non-revenue water; $7.3 million for the upgrade of wastewater treatment plants; and $4.5 million to upgrade the wastewater distribution system to ensure that Fijians within urban centres are connected to the wastewater reticulation system.

6.4 million has been allocated for Rural Water Supply Programme in order to provide access to clean water in rural communities.

$7.1 million is for electrical works at WAF’s water pump and wastewater stations and $0.9 million will be utilised to continue improvement of catchment and water source areas.

An allocation of $3.5 million is provided for rural water carting to communities in non-metered areas during periods of drought, water disruption and during the current recovery period from COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Authority Chairman Bhavesh Kumar says the 2020-2021 National Budget is a positive and encouraging step forward for Fiji as the nation braces for the global economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kumar says the government has presented a smart National Budget to soften the impact and create the conditions for a strong recovery.




Massive reduction in taxes announced in the National Budget is expected to stimulate business and consumption activity – Govt

By Vijay Narayan
Monday 20/07/2020

The government says the massive reduction in taxes announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget is expected to stimulate business and consumption activity.

It says that the revenue policy environment has become very challenging as revenue levels continue to decline.

With private sector activity severely hampered by the crisis, revenue policy must provide the necessary impetus for growth.

The Ministry for Economy has said that keeping the economy afloat and supporting businesses and those that are unemployed is critical for immediate relief and long-term economic recovery.

It says increased external financing through multilateral partners like the Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, World Bank, and bilateral partners like the Japanese Government will help sustain expenditure, while quantitative easing measures through RBF purchase of Government bonds and other domestic financing will assist further.

The Ministry also says long-term improvements in other sectors are necessary to reduce our over-dependence on tourism.

It says reforms will be directed towards improving the ease of doing business to attract private sector investments, enhancing access to finance for higher investment opportunities, reducing tax rates and streamlining tax administration to support economic growth and stability.

The Ministry for Economy says targeted spending is necessary to stimulate economic activity and fund essential COVID-19 measures.

It says with expected revenue collections of $1.673 billion in the 2020-2021 National Budget and available net financing of $2 billion, the government has the capacity to spend a maximum of $3.674 billion, around $138.3 million higher than the COVID-19 Response Budget.




Major construction projects like the new PM’s Office, CWM Maternity Ward, Labasa Hospital and some Police stations to continue

By Vijay Narayan
Monday 20/07/2020

The Ministry of Economy confirms that major construction projects like construction of the new Prime Minister’s Office, the CWM Maternity Ward, Labasa Hospital interior upgrade, road maintenance and upgrade, construction of Nakasi, Nadi, Nalawa and Lautoka police stations, and other capital works will continue in the new financial year.

According to the 2020/2021 National Budget Supplement, a sum of $1.5 million has been allocated to assist the private sector with the development costs associated with large construction projects. It says this will create new employment opportunities and absorb workers that have been laid-off during the pandemic.

$7 million has been allocated for the construction of the new Prime Minister’s Office. The allocation is based on requisition.

$7 million has been allocated for the completion of the CWM Hospital Maternity Ward.

The total capital expenditure for government for the next National Budget is expected to be around $1.208 billion, higher by around $110.4 million or 10.1 percent compared to 2019-2020 National Budget.




Drop in new TELS awards and National Toppers scholarships and qualifying mark moved up from 200 to 250 next year

By Vijay Narayan
Monday 20/07/2020
Tertiary students in during lectures. [image: usp]

The government has taken a number of measures to streamline its capital spending in the 2020/2021 National Budget including what it calls belt-tightening measures for the National Toppers and Tertiary Education Loan Scheme, suspension of civil service scholarship and local postgraduate scholarship programme and the temporary suspension of the Parenthood Assistance Programme.

According to the next government budget, 130 new National Toppers Scholarships for MBBS, oral health and surgery will be suspended along with 20 new National Toppers overseas scholarships.

For TELS, 130 new awards for MBBS, oral and dental, and 10 new awards for the Pilot Training Programme will be suspended.

The TELS qualifying marks based on Year 13 results has been raised from 200 to 250.

TELS technical college students’ entry age will also be increased from 15 years to 17 years.

The Ministry of Economy confirms the civil service scholarship and local postgraduate scholarship programmes will be suspended in 2020-2021 and all graduate student allowances will also be removed from the next financial year.

It has also been announced that the Parenthood Assistance Programme has been temporarily put on hold pending further review, and the guaranteed cane price for sugar has been reduced from $85 to $70 per tonne.

The Ministry also says that while the government has scaled down a number of programmes in the 2020-2021 National Budget, it will continue with existing initiatives and introduce new measures to support the unemployed, the small and medium businesses and tourism.

The government has allocated around $100 million funding support for the unemployment assistance scheme.

Around $30 million is allocated for the small and medium business loan programme in the next financial year.




Fiji Airways begins work to register hotels and resorts for the Tourism Recovery Package

By Dhanjay Deo
Monday 20/07/2020
Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyu

Fiji Airways says it is now working on registering interested hotels and resorts to participate in government’s Tourism Recovery Package.

Government has allocated $60 million for the Fiji Recovery Rebate Package in the 2020/2021 National Budget where through Fiji Airways, the government will give the first 150,000 visitors $400 each to go towards packages including flights, accommodation and Food and Beverages.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says Fiji Airways will work with different operators and they will have to give at least 45% discount before the duty reduction.

He says government will subsidize up to $400 for the first 150,000 tourists and the amount will be split between Fiji Airways and the hotel property.

Fiji Airways says access will be contingent on hotels and resorts meeting the Campaign Qualifying Rules.

The national airline says this initiative will allow controlled easing of border restrictions, making it possible for Australian and New Zealand holidaymakers to return to their favourite destination.

Fiji Airways says it is now leading an Industry Task Force to help develop the qualifying rules and implement the campaign.




NFP to move motion during budget debate to restore guaranteed sugar price to $85 per tonne

By Naveel Krishant
Monday 20/07/2020
NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad

The National Federation Party says they will move a motion during the budget debate to restore the guaranteed sugar price to $85 per tonne from $70 to give the livelihood of farmers some stability.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says let this serve as notice to those FijiFirst MPs who seek their votes from growers and their families because they will inform the growers how they were betrayed if these MPs vote against this motion.

Professor Prasad says the government has grossly betrayed the trust and pre-election promise to cane growers by reducing the guaranteed cane price and kicked the growers and their families in the guts.

He adds while it is perfectly understandable that collective Cabinet responsibility requires every Minister to agree with Government policies, growers want to know whether Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama who is also the Minister for Sugar agreed to drastically cut the guaranteed price despite repeated assurances by him on the issue at every sugar industry-related event to maintain the guaranteed price for three years.

He says growers are also angry and realise that while the industry, together with the agricultural sector, is unaffected by COVID-19 and in prime position to resuscitate the economy, it is them who are made sacrificial lambs.

Prasad claims what this means is that 8,332 or minimum of 70 per cent of active cane growers out of 11,902 active growers, as stated by FSC’s 2019 Annual Report, who produce an average of 142 tonnes of cane or less, will only earn a net profit of $1,420 per season to be paid over 16 months.

He says at the same time, the Prime Minister, who is the Sugar Minister received an average of $3,000 per day as overseas travelling allowance in 2019.

Prasad says that is more than 50% of what an average producing grower receives as net income in 16 months adding this is grossly insulting, yet the Prime Minister’s silence is deafening.

While announcing the 2020-2021 National Budget, Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said once Fiji’s larger economic recovery gets underway, the bottom-line of the cane growers will be among their priorities.

Sayed-Khaiyum had said on Friday that for two straight seasons they have paid cane growers $85 per tonne – a value far above the world market price adding that last season’s guaranteed price will be paid.

But Sayed-Khaiyum says in the final third season of the arrangement, they are reducing the guaranteed price for cane from $85 to $70 adding all other support to cane growers will continue.

$33 million was utilized to make up for the $85 guaranteed price for the 2018 sugarcane season.





Services expected to pick up in many folds with the regularization of more Special Constables – Qiliho

By Naveel Krishant
Sunday 19/07/2020
Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho

Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho says with the regularization of more Special Constables in the next financial year, he expects to see the services to pick up in many folds.

The Fiji Police Force has been allocated $200.6 million and this will see the modernization of Police Stations in Nakasi, Nalawa, Nadi and Lautoka while 257 officers will be promoted and the Force will recruit 137 new officers.

Qiliho adds that they also look forward to the recruitment of 137 new Police officers as this will beef up their manpower.

Qiliho says they are confident that they will be able to deliver again with the budgeted allocation for the Force for the next financial year.

Qiliho says the budget also provides for the completion of phase two of the restructure program.

The Force is expanding the reach of its services and aims to improve response time through the procurement of new specialised equipment, including communication equipment, IT equipment, forensic science tools, police boats and traffic management equipment.

Meanwhile, Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation Symposium that there is a need to have more Police officers.




NZ still has a few timelines to meet before Fiji drops quarantine requirements- AG

By Shanil Singh
Sunday 19/07/2020
Attorney General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum [Image: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji]

Attorney General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says New Zealand still has a few timelines to meet before Fiji drops quarantine requirements for NZ tourists.

Sayed-Khaiyum says this is not a political decision and all of these decisions are made by the health officials.

When asked if Fiji Airways will time themselves to recommence at the same time, Sayed-Khaiyum says a lot of it depends on how New Zealand treats their returning citizens.

The Attorney General has announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget that as New Zealand’s success against the virus has them on the fast track to COVID-Contained status, Fiji will soon drop any quarantine requirement for New Zealand-based travellers.





Interest rates won't come down to 2 or 3 percent- Saud Minam

By Shanil Singh
Sunday 19/07/2020
ANZ Country Head and Association of Banks Board member Saud Minam

ANZ Country Head and Association of Banks Board member Saud Minam says expecting interest rates to be reduced to as low as 2 or 3 percent is not possible.

Minam highlighted this when asked what is his prediction for interest rates in Fiji in the next three years at the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation Symposium.

He says there may be a reduction in the near future but going forward the interest rates are likely to hover around the range where it is right now.

He says they will continue to look into it in terms of the cost of funds and as and when the cost of funds come down.

Minam says we have to understand that not only customer risk but portfolio risk and country risk is associated with it.




Reduction in Motor Vehicle Accident Levy will not affect compensation – Parvez Akbar

By Naveel Krishant
Sunday 19/07/2020
Accident Compensation Commission of Fiji CEO Parvez Akbar

Accident Compensation Commission of Fiji CEO, Parvez Akbar says the reduction in the Motor Vehicle Accident Levy will not affect their ability to compensate victims of accidents.

It was announced in the National Budget Address that the Motor Vehicle Accident Levy will be reduced by 50% effective from 1st August 2020 to 31st July 2021.

Akbar says to date they have paid out over $12 million in compensation for motor vehicle, employment and school accidents.

He says the announcement provides relief to motor vehicle owners for a period of one year as the nation copes with the impacts of COVID-19.

Akbar adds they fully support the decision to significantly reduce the Motor Vehicle Accident Levy as this will certainly ease the financial burden on motor vehicle owners in these difficult times.

He says notwithstanding the impact that COVID-19 has on the economy and the nation as a whole, they have continued to receive and process applications for compensation.




National Farmers Union to request PM to revert the guaranteed cane price to $85 per tonne

By Naveel Krishant
Saturday 18/07/2020
National Farmers Union General Secretary Mahendra Chaudhry

National Farmers Union General Secretary Mahendra Chaudhry says they will be writing to the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar Voreqe Bainimarama requesting that the guaranteed minimum price of $85 per tonne for cane be reverted from $70 as promised by the government while the Minister for Economy had said once Fiji’s larger economic recovery gets underway, the bottom-line of the cane growers will be among their priorities.

Chaudhry has labeled the reduction a gross breach of trust adding that the government has reneged on a promise it made to the farmers during the 2018 general election campaign to pay a guaranteed cane price of $85 a tonne for the next three years (2019-2021).

He says at $15 a tonne less, growers are being short changed by as much as $28 million based on the forecast of 1.8 million tonnes of cane for the 2020 season.

Chaudhry further says it is ironical that the Minister for Economy is prepared to pay $60 million to entice tourists to Fiji at the rate of $400 per visitor for the first 150,000, but deprives our own farmers of what they were promised.

Meanwhile, Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said on Friday that for two straight seasons they have paid cane growers $85 per tonne – a value far above the world market price adding that last season’s guaranteed price will be paid.

But Sayed-Khaiyum says in the final third season of the arrangement, they are reducing the guaranteed price for cane from $85 to $70 adding all other support to cane growers will continue.

$33 million was utilized to make up for the $85 guaranteed price for the 2018 sugarcane season.




People welcome the reduction in duties and taxes and continued support for the unemployed

By Faria Begum Ali
Saturday 18/07/2020

The 2020/2021 National Budget has received a lot of positive response from members of the public who believe that budget has eased their burden especially with the tax reductions and other incentives announced.

A large number of people in the country are unemployed as they have had their hours of work reduced or have been sent on leave without pay.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has announced a number of tax and duty reductions in the 2020/2021 National Budget last night.

This means, the prices of a number of items that people purchase every day have been reduced and a number of taxes have all been reduced.

Fijivillage spoke to a number of people this afternoon, who shared their opinions on the budget.




Consumer Council to work with FRCS and FCCC to ensure consumers reap the benefits of the reduction of duties and taxes

By Faria Begum Ali
Saturday 18/07/2020
Consumer Council of Fiji CEO Seema Shandil

Consumer Council of Fiji CEO Seema Shandil says they will be working with all relevant stakeholders including the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service and the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission to ensure that the consumers benefit from the reduction in the duties and taxes on various items.

Shandil says the reduction of duties and taxes for over 1,600 goods will greatly benefit all consumers.

She has also welcomed the subsidies provided on EFL and Water Authority bills.

She says the 2020/2021 National Budget is aimed at building a productive, a more sustained and inclusive economy.

Shandil has encouraged all consumers to make good use of the initiatives announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has said that those people who genuinely cannot afford to pay their water bills would have payments deferred rather than be disconnected until the 31st of March next year.




14.1% GDP growth expected next year depending on visitor arrivals- RBF Governor

By Shanil Singh
Saturday 18/07/2020
Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji Ariff Ali

Governor of the Reseve Bank of Fiji Ariff Ali says GDP growth is expected to be about 14.1 percent on an assumption that visitor arrivals for next year will be 50 percent of the visitor arrivals in 2019.

There were around 900,000 visitor arrivals in 2019.

While speaking at the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation Symposium, Ali said as at today visitor arrivals are down by 84 percent.

Ali says so far this year all the indicators are negative, sectoral performances are all weak, consumption is down and private sector growth is significantly low.

He says inflation is now -3.5 percent and one of the major contributors of this is the price of kava while the other factor is oil prices.

Ali says foreign reserves currently stand at $2.1 billion and it is expected to be $2.2 billion as government will be drawing down almost $100 million early next month.

He also says that there is no question of devaluation because they have more than enough reserves to purchase almost 8 months of imports.




FRA to focus on completing the replacement of critical bridges and crossings for the next financial year

By Iva Danford
Saturday 18/07/2020

The Fiji Roads Authority plans to complete the replacement of critical bridges and crossings and undertake major projects like tendering and commencement of rehabilitation of major highway network in the Kings and Queens Roads in the next financial year.

FRA received a $348.9 million allocation in the 2020-2021 national budget with $70 million allocated for road rehabilitation.

With this allocation they have other projects like completion of the three year reseals contract with a total of approximately 220km of infrastructure resealed over the three years.

FRA will also tender and commence works to design 40 critical bridges in Fiji.

A sum of $30 million is provided for rehabilitation, renewals and replacement of roads, while $51.2 million is allocated for the upgrade and replacement of existing bridges and crossings.

$20 million is provided for the upgrade of Queen Elizabeth Drive (Phase 1) which includes the upgrading of the existing bridge in Nasese.

$7.6 million has been allocated for a community programme to improve the quality of roads and enhance pedestrian safety through the construction of footpaths.

People can also expect improved streetlight and traffic signals with an allocation of $7.1 million.

$59.4 million has been provided for the rural roads programme.

$0.7 million is allocated to complete the feasibility study and detailed design of Labasa bypass road - Stage 1 and 2.

Meanwhile, the Transport Infrastructure Investment Sector Project is financed through Asian Development Bank and World Bank loans of US$100 million and US$50 million respectively, supplementing the Government investment.

It aims to rehabilitate roads, bridges and jetties to achieve climate-resilient transport infrastructure, more efficient project management support and effective institutional management.




Major changes announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 17/07/2020
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Major changes in taxes and policies have been announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget by Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to stimulate the economy and to bring back confidence in the different sectors, with a lot of anticipation to see the much needed growth during this recession. While making the announcement, Sayed-Khaiyum says $3.67 billion has been projected for government expenditure while $1.67 billion has been allocated for revenue for the 2020/2021 National Budget. This will bring the Debt to GDP ratio to 83%.

Sayed-Khaiyum says these tough measures have to be taken as government believes raising taxes in a recession is wrong and cutting spending will mean cutting jobs and government services to the people.

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He says government funded resources are targeted where they are needed the most.

Sayed-Khaiyum has confirmed that Fiji will soon drop quarantine requirements for NZ tourists.

He says Fiji's national carrier, Fiji Airways and hotels will also offer the attractive packages that will get tourists coming to our shores again.

The 6 percent Service Turnover Tax has been eliminated and ECAL or Environment Climate Adaptation Levy will go down from 10 percent to 5 percent.

For the reduced ECAL, the turnover threshold is now $ 3 million annually.

Sayed-Khaiyum says so for mid-sized tourism operators and other businesses like restaurants, rental car companies and cafes, ECAL is dropping to zero.

He says market survey has shown that Fijian resorts and hotels can be overpriced, especially when it comes to food and beverage services adding that as an immediate effect of these tax cuts, they expect the price structures for rooms, food, alcohol –– basically everything –– to drop precipitously.

He adds tourism operators should consider making these changes to their cost structure permanent.

Sayed-Khaiyum further says as Fiji looks to safely reopen to tourists, the hospitality industry can even get creative with all-inclusive options that allow us to be cost-competitive with destinations like Bali and Phuket, when they open for businesses, they will do so with a vengeance

Sayed-Khaiyum has also announced that excise tax on alcohol will go down by 50 percent.

Through Fiji Airways, the Fijian Government will give the first 150,000 visitors $400 each to go towards packages including flights, accommodation and Food and Beverages.

The government has also decided to abolish all stamp duties.

Fiscal duty has been reduced to 5 percent and import excise tax has been eliminated on a range of white goods including air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, microwaves, lawn mowers, hair dryers, toasters, electric stoves, kettles and smartphones.

The government says they are reducing import duty by 75 per cent on hybrid cars and non-hybrid cars. In addition, for new, non-hybrid cars they are reducing fiscal duty from 15 per cent to 5 per cent. Excise duty has been removed on all non-hybrid cars.

There’s no restriction on age for vehicles to qualify for these exemptions, but all non-hybrid cars must meet Euro 4 Fuel standards. The luxury vehicle levy has also been removed and the Accident Compensation Levy has been reduced by 50 percent through the next year.

Customs duties have been reduced for over 1,600 items.

From toothbrushes to spectacle lenses, contact lenses and artificial eye solution; to testing equipment for businesses to help lower production costs; to life jackets, life belts and fire alarms to strengthen public safety; to laundry detergent; to exercise books; to hygiene products like deodorant and shampoos; to food items, like tomatoes, jams, soy sauce, salmon, sardines, cereals, sweet biscuits, potatoes, chocolates, pasta, baking powder and peanut butter; and tourism-related equipment. You can check out the full list of items and duty and tax deductions on our website, fijivillage

Sayed-Khaiyum has also stressed to businesses that their prices must reflect the supply side discounts.

The Minister for Economy has also announced that to ensure that Fiji’s hard-fought progress in the fight against climate change isn’t lost, and to show that Fiji is dedicated to a “blue” economic recovery, next year, they still plan to add a ban on Styrofoam to the current single-use plastic ban, and they are launching the Blue Town Model in Savusavu –– a new, pioneering blueprint for coastal towns across the country and around the world to follow.

He says a public-private partnership that empowers coastal communities to make sustainability and resiliency central to their development and daily life, the Blue Town Model aims to help these communities adapt to protect the oceans in a way that simultaneously generates economic activity.

Sayed-Khaiyum adds the Savusavu Chamber of Commerce will work alongside town administrators to integrate the model’s various environmental safeguards.

All residential rent is now VAT exempt.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the provision allowing landlords to claim tax deductions on the sum for any reductions made in commercial rent will be extended to 31st December 2021.

The reduction of 10 percent to 5 percent for employer FNPF contributions will continue.

All employers who go beyond the call of duty and contribute more than 5 percent up to 10 percent of FNPF will be given 150 percent tax deduction backdated to 1st April 2020. This additional contribution will be exempt from taxes for employees.

The Minister for Economy says Fiji is making itself a manufacturer’s destination of choice with new incentives to tap into international eagerness to relocate assembly and manufacturing lines to Fiji, including through continued support towards the establishment of a Special Economic Zone in Navutu which they are developing in partnership with the FNPF and IFC to lay the groundwork for a tailor-made manufacturing facility which can be adapted to suit a variety of manufacturing purposes.

He adds for subsidised customers of Energy Fiji Limited, the first 100 units of power will continue to be discounted through 31st March of next year, with government and EFL each covering 50 per cent of this subsidy to ensure these customers pay only VAT on their first 100 units of power every month. He says for grid extension projects, EFL will consider –– on a case-by-case basis –– payment schedules up to six months or more for large capital investments.

He adds they will be lowering the bus fare for pensioners by ten dollars a month given the low usage they have recorded and a general COVID-associated drop in travel.

He says they are suspending the Parenthood Assistance Payments announced last year.

Sayed-Khaiyum says it is important they target resources on families facing the most severe hit to their finances rather than more broadly-focussed assistance payments.

He adds they will be taking the next year to review these payments to determine when and if they’ll resume.

From August 1st this year, Fiji's business license regime will be removed.

Fringe benefits by employers will be VAT exempt.

The 20 percent pay cut for all Members of Parliament will continue. There will be a 10 percent salary cut for all Permanent Secretaries, CEOs and heads of independent bodies.

Sayed-Khaiyum says there will be no pay cuts for other civil servants. Meal allowances will be reduced from $20 to $10 and there will be no overtime pay but time off will be implemented.

Those who are fully unemployed will continue to get $220 per fortnight.

Those whose working days or hours have been reduced will receive $44 per fortnight for every day they are no longer working.

So, if you are now only working three days a week, you will receive $88 every two weeks; if you’re down to working only one day a week, you will receive $176 every two weeks. FNPF will also allow withdrawals for those who have been unemployed for more than 6 months and who could not withdraw before.

He says Government has made $100 million available to make sure every unemployed Fijian is able to access their full relief payments.

He adds within that allocation, $5 million is dedicated to upskilling or reskilling workers whose old jobs have been lost, but for whom new opportunities await.

He has announced that they will also continue supporting micro, small and medium enterprises through their highly-concessionary loan packages. He says in addition to the $30 million set aside for this initiative last year, they are adding an additional $30 million this year.

Sayed-Khaiyum says in line with the policy across the civil service, the retirement age for those working in municipal councils will be reduced from 60 to 55 in one year’s time.

The Association of Banks has agreed to defer loan repayments on a case by case basis up to December 31st 2020.

He says they are grateful for flexibility they have granted the families and business still bearing the worst of this economic fallout.

The Ministry of Education has been allocated $450.6 million for the next financial year.

This will see the continuation of free education and bus fare subsidy.

Salary increments for teachers who obtain new qualifications will now be approved and paid in the next financial year. Those pay rises will be backdated.

For TELS, government has made some policy changes to raise the qualifying standards for students and lower costs. For starters, only students who earn marks above 250 on their Year 13 exams will qualify.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they have also lowered TELS and Topper’s Scholarships available, among with some other belt-tightening measures. But he says to grant flexibility to those still paying back loans, TELS repayments will be suspended another year, until 31st December 2021.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is allocated $394.3 million in the 2020-2021 Budget.

A key focus of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is to remodel health care service provision so as to maintain readiness to be able to contain future threats from the pandemic whilst ensuring better coverage and quality.

Sayed-Khaiyum says 223 intern nurses will be made full time, 40 midwives will be hired and 105 full time medical officers will be advanced.

Internships of doctors will be for 2 years.

Sayed-Khaiyum says multi storey strata housing projects are being planned throughout Viti Levu. Meetings are underway with IFC.

People who earn $50,000 or less and building their first home will be granted $30,000. They will get $15,000 if they buy their first home.

For those families earning above $50,000 annually, they can be granted $20,000 to build their first home or $5,000 to buy their first home.

Any companies which build buildings for government use, the duty will be waived on all the raw materials, machinery and equipment necessary for construction.

Sayed-Khaiyum says as Fiji’s growing film and television industry is being safely resumed, with beloved shows like Survivor set to continue, their exemptions of exceptional economic value are also safely bringing back vital jobs and money into the country, with more expected to follow.

He says they have received a number of applications that would breathe new life, and new jobs, across industries and sectors adding several high-net worth individuals have taken them up on their offer to “escape the pandemic in paradise”.

He further says they have even seen interest by a company looking to not only come to the country to resume operations, but publicly list on the South Pacific South Exchange; so there lies great potential for those looking to take advantage of existing incentives to list in Fiji and even base their headquarters here.

Sayed-Khaiyum has also announced that they are offering a 150 per cent tax deduction for companies who list corporate bonds on the South Pacific Stock Exchange, with another 150 percent deduction allowed on interest paid on corporate bonds. He says any interest income will also be tax exempt.

He says these innovative approaches can help capture massive market and investment opportunities.

He adds that just because it’s safe to travel doesn’t mean people will travel –– but if the deals are good enough, they will fill the planes.

Fiji's overseas missions in Washington DC, Seoul, Port Moresby, Brussels and Kuala Lumpur will be closed permanently.

He says for two straight seasons they have paid cane growers $85 per tonne – a value far above the world market price adding that last season’s guaranteed price will be paid.

Sayed-Khaiyum says but in the final third season of the arrangement, they are reducing the guaranteed price for cane from $85 to $70 adding all other support to cane growers will continue.

He adds once Fiji’s larger economic recovery gets underway, the bottom-line of the cane growers will be among their priorities.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they are offering a deal for the construction of new private hospitals and medical service centres.

He says if you build or upgrade a hospital, depending on your level of investment, you can be granted up to a 20-year tax holiday on your new hospital or up to a 60% tax deduction on your renovation works.

Sayed-Khaiyum adds that businesses who invest in new subdivision projects for both residential and commercial lots will not only have duties waived on construction inputs, they can access up to 60% in tax deductions. And any profit they make selling the newly developed lots will be tax exempt.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they have allocated funds for the construction of new modernised Police Stations in Nakasi, Nalawa, Nadi and Lautoka.

257 officers will be promoted and the Force will recruit 137 new officers.

$6 million has been allocated for reform and restructure of the Fiji Police Force.

A 150 percent tax deduction has been announced for hotels to hire local entertainers.

He says to keep things simple for the “telcos” and support the longstanding commitment to streamline the sector’s regulations, the data levy introduced last year and the telecommunications service licensing fee have been replaced with a single 2 per cent revenue-based telecommunications licence fee.

He adds half of a percent of that new, simplified fee will go into an existing trust fund set aside for the continued development of Fiji’s telecommunications industry, allowing Fiji to further cement its standing as the ICT hub of the Pacific.

Sayed-Khaiyum has told the people that the government is betting big during the largest economic contraction to come back and recover quickly.

He said that we are a COVID-19 contained country now but many of our important industries have been victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says tourism revenues have been evaporated with 40 percent of our GDP gone.

Sayed-Khaiyum says one third of our workforce have either lost their jobs or are on reduced hours.

He says the economy is not only at stake now but also our children's economy.

The Minister for Economy stresses that we need to bring back jobs and reduce taxes particularly in tourism.

He says they cannot tax businesses like it’s a pre-COVID economy or act with false hope that we will return to one anytime soon.

He says to brace for the “new normal” they have announced Fiji’s biggest-ever tax cut –– a discount of hundreds of millions of dollars, with strategic incentives across age-old industries as well as new arenas –– such as manufacturing and assembly –– which nations are looking to relocate to price competitive locales.

He says this tax cut’s biggest savings are also targeted at tourism.

Sayed-Khaiyum also says that our comeback hinges on holding our place in the global economy.

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Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association delighted with 2020/21 Budget

By Pratika Mala
Friday 17/07/2020
CEO of Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association, Fantasha Lockington

The CEO of Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association, Fantasha Lockington says they are delighted the Government has delivered by providing relief for both import and excise duties and tax surcharge.

Lockington says these will altogether reduce their overhead costs and allow them to create attractive packages which will in turn allow them to offer real value for money.

She adds when Fiji’s borders open, it will make Fiji far more competitive.

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Lockington says it’s great that the tourism industry is being recognised that it uses local entertainers and now they can get some incentive.

A 150% tax deduction is being offered to hotels and restaurants that use local entertainers.

Lockington says this is like icing on the cake as they had not expected that.



We have to be positive about the measurements announced in the budget - Rabuka

By Shanil Singh
Friday 17/07/2020
Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka

Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka says we all have to be positive about the measurements that have been announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget.

Speaking to Fijivillage after the Budget Address, Rabuka says the main purpose of the budget is recovery and we will have to wait and see how much of the recovery can be made from the budget.

Rabuka says it is their job now to properly critique it and hopefully the nation can get behind them to achieve the ultimate goal which is to get the economy back.



Quality of education will not be compromised – Akbar

By Semi Turaga
Friday 17/07/2020
Education Minister Rosy Akbar

Education Minister Rosy Akbar says while there has been a slight reduction in the free education grant, the focus will be making sure the quality of education is not compromised.

She says most of the programs will continue.

Akbar says she is also happy for the 13,000 plus teachers who will not be subjected to any pay cuts.

The Ministry of Education has been allocated $450.6 million for the next financial year.

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This will see the continuation of free education and bus fare subsidy.

Salary increments for teachers who obtain new qualifications will now be approved and paid in the next financial year. Those pay raises will be backdated.

For TELS, the government has made some policy changes to raise the qualifying standards for students and lower costs.

For starters, only students who earn marks above 250 on their Year 13 exams will qualify.



More people expected to use the social welfare assistance due to the economic impact brought by the COVID-19 pandemic – AG

By Naveel Krishant, Semi Turaga
Friday 17/07/2020
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum confirms that they have made allocations with respect to social protection programs like the Poverty Benefit Scheme with the anticipation that more people will fall through the cracks and will need that assistance due to the economic impact brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation has been allocated $159.0 million in the 2020-2021 National Budget.

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Sayed-Khaiyum says the Department of Social Welfare administers Fiji’s basket of social welfare programmes, which include the Poverty Benefit Scheme, the Child Protection Allowance, the Food Voucher Program, the Social Pension Scheme and the Bus Fare Subsidy for the elderly and people living with disabilities.

He says the ongoing review on the social protection programmes systems and processes will ensure that this assistance is well-targeted and administered in a transparent and accountable manner.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the department is equally committed to ensuring that these programmes do not create a culture of dependency, focusing efforts and energy on graduating individuals and families from “welfare to workfare”.



NFP unhappy with allocations made to some sectors

By Faria Begum Ali
Saturday 18/07/2020
National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says he is disappointed with the allocation made to agriculture, social welfare and fisheries in the 2020/2021 National Budget.

The Ministry of Agriculture is allocated $65.3 million in the 2020/2021 budget while in the last financial year, an allocation of $78.7 million was made.

The Fisheries Ministry received an allocation of $15.5 million in this year’s budget while the Ministry of Forestry was allocated $15.7 million in this year’s budget.

The Social Welfare Program under the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation was allocated $133 million in the 2019/2020 budget while allocation of $140.7 million has been made for this year.

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The Ministry of Women altogether was allocated $127.7 million in the last budget and this year it has been increased to $159 million.

Prasad says the focus has remained on the tourism industry adding that many families would be needing assistance from social welfare given the level of unemployment as an impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prasad adds that he would have preferred a bigger allocation for the Ministry of Health to ensure that our health services are up to par.

The Ministry of Health has been allocated $394.3 million in this budget.




Government has done their part, now its up to the hotels and resorts to do theirs- Koya

By Shanil Singh
Friday 17/07/2020
Minister for Tourism Faiyaz Koya

Minister for Tourism Faiyaz Koya says the government has done their part by reducing the Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy and Service Turnover Tax and it is now up to the resorts and hotels to do theirs.

Koya says the general complaint is cost of Food and Beverages being too high and this is the government doing its bit to ensure there is a drop in prices.

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Koya says the industry stakeholders need to look at that and say that the government has done its part and its now for us to do our part.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget that the 6% Service Turnover Tax has been eliminated and ECAL or Environment Climate Adaptation Levy will go down from 10% to 5%.



2020/21 National Budget biggest stimulus budget ever - Fiji Retailers Association

By Pratika Mala
Saturday 18/07/2020
President of Fiji Retailers Association, Vinay Kumar

President of Fiji Retailers Association, Vinay Kumar says the 2020/21 National Budget may be the biggest stimulus budget that we may have ever come across in modern history in Fiji.

Kumar says he has never seen such a big reduction in duties for 1,600 items since Fiji’s modern history.

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He says Fiji’s economy is now being reset.

Kumar adds the removal of business licenses is the best news he has ever heard because there was no standardisation of business licenses.



More people may need help through Free Medicine Scheme – Health Minister

By Semi Turaga
Saturday 18/07/2020
Health Minister Doctor Ifereimi Waqainabete

With the announcement that the Free Medicine Scheme will continue, Health Minister Doctor Ifereimi Waqainabete has assured that their staff will actively continue to go out and try and register the new people that meet the requirements for the scheme.

Waqainabete says they understand that there will be more vulnerable people that will need to be assisted due to the current circumstances.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is allocated $394.3 million in the 2020-2021 Budget.

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A key focus of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is to remodel health care service provision so as to maintain readiness to be able to contain future threats from the pandemic whilst ensuring better coverage and quality.

Sayed-Khaiyum says 223 intern nurses will be made full time, 40 midwives will be hired and 105 full-time medical officers will be advanced.

Internships of doctors will be for 2 years.



FCCC will ensure benefits of customs duty reduction on goods and VAT exemption on residential rent is passed down to consumers - Abraham

By Rashika Kumar
Saturday 18/07/2020
FCCC CEO, Joel Abraham

As the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has announced in the 2020/2021 National Budget that customs duty on 1,600 items and fiscal duty has been reduced to 5% and import excise tax on a range of white goods have been eliminated, the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission says they will ensure that the benefits of this reduction will be passed down to the consumers.

FCCC CEO, Joel Abraham says they have a good relationship with businesses but they should not be mistaken as FCCC will come hard on traders who are unethical.

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He says they have a system of enforcement but there will be some legislative changes providing specific provisions to empower FCCC.

Meanwhile Sayed-Khaiyum has also announced that residential rent is also VAT exempt.

Abraham says they will make sure that such exemption is also reflected by the reduction where VAT has previously been charged.





$20.83 is expected to paid by govt to meet the guaranteed cane price of $85 per tonne

By Naveel Krishant
Friday 17/07/2020

Government is expected to fork out $20.83 per tonne to meet the guaranteed cane price of $85 per tonne as the forecast price for a tonne of sugar for the 2020 Crushing Season is expected to be $64.17.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had announced in the 2019-2020 National Budget that to further support Fijian cane farmers, Government will provide a guaranteed price of $85 per tonne for the next two years, ensuring continued confidence and peace of mind in the industry.

Meanwhile, as the 2020, cane crushing is underway, the three mills crushed 182,545 tonnes of cane as at 13th July 2020.

This is an increase when compared to the the 137,446 tonnes crushed for the same period last year.

FSC CEO, Graham Clarke had earlier highlighted that they expect to get close to $200 million revenue from the sale of sugar and molasses for the 2020/2021 season.

Clarke says they expect to receive close to $150 million from the overseas market.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2020/2021 National Budget address at 7.30 tonight.

Stay with us for coverage on how the budget announcement will affect you. Find out which taxes and duties will go up or down and how it affects your pocket, and how the government will allocate money to provide services to the people of Fiji in the new financial year. You can also follow live coverage of the speech, live updates, detailed analysis and budget responses on our website, fijivillage tonight.



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Association of Banks reassures government that they will continue to assist affected customers

By Rashika Kumar
Friday 17/07/2020
[Image: Fijian Government]

The Association of Banks in Fiji has reassured the Minister for Economy as part of their submission for the 2020/2021 National Budget that they will continue to assist the customers who are unable to make loan repayments even if they are unable to pay after their loan repayment holiday.

Responding to questions on when they will consider repossessing property, Association Chairman, Rakesh Ram says the banks are currently able to sustain whatever assistance they are providing to the customers in terms of managing the situation and they are working with the customers on how they can continue to help them without taking any drastic action.

Ram says they are still trying to work with the customers and the relevant stakeholders.

The Chairman adds that they are looking at the situation positively and are hoping the COVID-19 pandemic will be over soon.

The association is made up of ANZ, Westpac, BSP, BRED Bank, HFC and Bank of Baroda.




We need to work together – Fantasha Lockington

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 17/07/2020
Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association CEO Fantasha Lockington. [image: File]

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association CEO, Fantasha Lockington is hoping that some relief is provided by the government by reducing import and excise duties and taxes to assist the tourism sector.

Tourism is the worst affected sector with the borders closed and there are estimates that more than 115,000 jobs have been affected.

Lockington says the reduction of duties and taxes will help them to reduce overhead costs, and when the costs are reduced, they can better package the products.

She says this will make Fiji more attractive when the borders open because we will all be competing on the world stage, and it will also assist in local tourism.

Lockington says we have to work together to get Fiji on a speedy path to economic recovery and they know tourism can do this.

She says we all have to look at how can we keep jobs, how can we encourage investment and how can we keep small and micro businesses in operation.

The CEO says the operators in the tourism and the hotel sector are still trying to look after their workers on reduced hours or leave without pay however this cannot be sustainable for a long period of time.

  



BSP Fiji assisting more than 5,000 customers impacted by COVID-19

By Semi Turaga
Friday 17/07/2020
BSP Fiji Country Head Haroon Ali

Bank South Pacific Fiji says it has been assisting more than 5,000 customers impacted by COVID-19 with its relief packages.

When asked if BSP Fiji was taking any recovery action against its customers, BSP Fiji Country Head Haroon Ali says none of their affected customers are in default as they are all enjoying the relief packages, therefore the issue of the bank taking recovery action does not arise at all.

In March, BSP Fiji announced that to assist customers impacted by COVID-19, they will be providing relief packages on a case by case basis.

BSP Fiji says for personal loans, there will be six months' principal and interest holiday.

For car loans, there will be six months principal and interest holiday. There will be a repayment holiday of up to 6 months on credit cards and six months principal and interest holiday on home loans.

It says the maturity term will be extended by a commensurate term of the suspended repayment period.

BSP Fiji says for business customers, there will be principal and interest holidays for up to six months.




Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy and Service Turnover Tax should be suspended - Nur Bano Ali

By Dhanjay Deo
Friday 17/07/2020
President of the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nur Bano Ali

The President of the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nur Bano Ali confirms they have supported the submission from the Tourism Industry that Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy and Service Turnover Tax should be suspended for a while.

Ali says ECAL is an additional burden for businesses as we go through these extraordinary times.

She says businesses are looking at reducing costs and they are in survival mode.

Ali says they have submitted that ECAL should be looked at with a lot of business interest at heart and they hope the focus of the 2020/2021 National Budget will be to reduce the cost of the businesses.

Ali says the Chamber plans to meet with Association of Banks in Fiji and work on strategies and options available to ensure the the loan deferment for businesses is extended for another six months particularly for the survival of small and micro businesses.

Ali also reveals that more than 7,000 applications have been received for concessional loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises that the government had put out.

She says there will a substantial amount of money that will be paid to small and micro businesses and they will then spend the money which will circulate in the economy.

Ali adds that government will need to support businesses as without businesses there will be no economy.




An additional 115,000 unemployed due to the pandemic and others living on or below the poverty line eargerly await budget announcement

By Vijay Narayan, Pratika Mala
Friday 17/07/2020

People living on or below the poverty line in the country will be eagerly awaiting the 2020/2021 National Budget announcement tonight on how they will be assisted during this pandemic which has affected everyone.

With the confirmation that an additional 115,000 people are unemployed in the country, the Social Welfare Department confirms they have started receiving cases of people who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Fijians are also working reduced hours.

The government is currently spending more than $105 million a year to assist Fijians through various programs.

According to the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, if a household income is less than $209.24 per week, they are considered to be living below the poverty line.

In the 2017 Census, it was stated that 28% of Fiji's population lived below the poverty line. This number is expected to rise due to increased unemployment and reduced hours.

Meanwhile, 25,467 families are currently being assisted under the Poverty Benefit Scheme.

8,183 people are getting assistance under the Care and Protection Scheme.

All those receiving the state welfare assistance in the Poverty Benefit and Care and Protection schemes are also getting $50 food vouchers for approved basic food items.

45,954 senior citizens who are 65 years and above with no source of income are being assisted under the Social Pension Scheme.

2,142 rural pregnant mothers are also getting $50 food vouchers under the Expanded Food Voucher Program.

52,640 people are being assisted under the Bus Fare Concession Program where senior citizens aged 60 years and above and disabled persons receive a $40 top up per month. The top up per month is currently $20 due to COVID-19.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2020/2021 National Budget address at 7.30 tonight.

Stay with us for coverage on how the budget announcement will affect you. Find out which taxes and duties will go up or down and how it affects your pocket, and how the government will allocate money to provide services to the people of Fiji in the new financial year. You can also follow live coverage of the speech, live updates, detailed analysis and budget responses on our website, fijivillage tonight.




39,023 Fijians benefitting from the Government and EFL Subsidy Scheme

By Pratika Mala
Friday 17/07/2020

A total of 39,023 Fijian families are benefiting from the Government and EFL Electricity Subsidy Scheme as at June this year.

As of 1st April this year, EFL subsidizes 52% of the first 100 units of electricity usage per month for all registered domestic subsidy customers whose annual household income is $30,000 or less.

The Government subsidizes the remaining 48%.

However, the account holder must also register and qualify for the Electricity Subsidy.

Customers only have to pay the VAT component and normal domestic tariff rate applies for any additional units consumed over 100 units.

Prior to April 2020, the Government subsidy provided for domestic account holders to save 48% on the first 100 units of electricity usage per month.

$17.9 million was allocated towards the rural electrification projects in the 2019/2020 National Budget of which $12.5 million will be used for Grid Extension Program.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2020-2021 National Budget at 7.30pm today.




Health Budget expected to focus on COVID-19 and continuing high-quality medical services

By Semi Turaga
Friday 17/07/2020
[Photo: Fijian Government]

The 2020/2021 National Budget is expected to continue to focus on the strengthening of the capacity of doctors and nurses to combat COVID-19 and keep themselves and Fijian families safe.

Another 40 million dollars was allocated in the 2019/2020 COVID-19 Response Budget to enhance the health system’s capacity to respond to the pandemic.

This was on top of the 349.8 million dollars allocated to the health sector in the 2019/2020 financial year.

The 2020/2021 National Budget is also expected to focus on continuing to ensure high-quality medical services and health education reaches every Fijian community, no matter how remote.

$34.7 million was allocated to the Health Ministry for capital expenditure in the 2019/2020 National Budget.

This includes the continuing extension of the CWM Hospital Maternity Unit.

Construction of the CWM Hospital Maternity Unit started in 2018.

7.5 million dollars was also allocated to upgrade the Keiyasi Health Centre into a Sub-Divisional Hospital to meet the demand for health services in light of the increased population there.

The Health Ministry has confirmed that this project is nearing completion.

More than 31,000 people are currently benefitting from the Free Medicine Program and this is also expected to continue.

This program which got funding of 23.7 million dollars in this financial year assists Fijians with an annual income below $20,000.




Government should reconsider ECAL – Fiji Retailers Association

By Rashika Kumar
Friday 17/07/2020
Fiji Retailers Association President Vinay Kumar

The Fiji Retailers Association says the government should reconsider the Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy to make it more affordable because some of the items are essential goods.

Items charged 10% ECAL includes smartphones, air conditioning units, refrigerators, TVs, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, microwaves and electric lawnmowers.

Association President Vinay Kumar says increasing VAT is going to be an issue but the government coffers have also been affected due to the non-existence of the tourism sector.

He adds that many sectors, especially the tourism sector have requested the Service Turnover Tax and the ECAL to be reconsidered.

The Association President adds that they have not made any suggestions to reduce the Corporate Tax but they have suggested a reduction in stamp duty.

Stamp duty is a tax on legal documents such as lease and tenancy agreements, sales and purchase agreement, transfer documents, mortgages, share transfer documents and transfer of second-hand vehicles.

Kumar adds they understand the government’s point of view where revenue has reduced due to COVID-19 which is no fault of theirs but the private and the public sector will need to work together to keep businesses afloat.

He says businesses need to keep their costs down but one of the major issues they are facing now is the rent they are being charged and interest rates charged by banks on business loans.

Kumar says some landlords have started charging rent they were charging previously and some have held on and are not charging as they were before.

He adds that they will only be able to know exactly how many businesses have had to shut down when they renew their business license.

Kumar adds consumer spending has become very scarce in the last 3 or 4 months as people have been spending their money on essential items only.

The 2020/2021 National Budget address will be delivered by the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at 7.30pm tonight.




More than 60% of tourism businesses surveyed expected to transition to other activities if travel does not start by November

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 17/07/2020
Permanent Secretary for Commerce, Tourism, Trade and Transport, Shaheen Ali

More than 60% of tourism businesses in Fiji surveyed by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Ministry of Commerce, Tourism, Trade and Transport, anticipate transitioning away from tourism activities if travel from source markets do not re-open by November 2020.

The survey revealed that most businesses in Fiji need financial support with over 500 of the business surveyed facing bankruptcy by November 2020.

The Fiji COVID-19 Business Survey: Tourism Focus received responses from over 3,500 businesses, including 620 tourism businesses.

The survey aimed to quantify the impact of COVID-19 on businesses with a specific focus on the tourism industry.

To continue operations, the businesses need health and safety certification, advice on business strategy, new markets and support to increase sales domestically.

Permanent Secretary for Commerce, Tourism, Trade and Transport, Shaheen Ali says the government has undertaken consultations with the Fijian business community to understand the impact of COVID-19 on them.

He says this survey adds to the findings of their consultations and will allow for informed responses to the pandemic, for the benefit of Fijians.

Ali says in considering the unprecedented scale of the crisis, the findings call for a more strategic partnership approach between Government, industry and development partners to accelerate recovery.

The online survey was carried out from April 28th to May 15th and revealed that 71% of businesses surveyed were stable with the ability to save or growing pre-COVID-19 but the impact of the pandemic had left almost 1,200 businesses anticipating a 75% decline in revenue.

Businesses already implemented various measures to address the impact with 24% of businesses surveyed moving to online sales, 69 per cent offering promotions and discounts and at least 36% moving to new activities, away from their core business.

The survey revealed that 41% of staff from all businesses are on reduced working hours or days, 10% are on leave without pay and 5% have been made redundant.

Businesses were also surveyed on the impact of Tropical Cyclone Harold, which revealed that 49% of non-tourism businesses and 48% of tourism businesses surveyed suffered financial losses due to the cyclone.

IFC Country Representative for Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu, Deva De Silva says the survey has provided a glimpse of the impact of the pandemic on Fijian businesses, this is critical to the Fijian government and its partners in formulating a strategic response to the impacts of COVID-19.

While it is obvious the tourism industry and non-tourism businesses both need financial support, the survey has recommended more support for the informal sector of the economy.

The survey has recommended a roadmap for the recovery of the tourism industry, training for tourism workers for the “new normal”, diversified marketing campaigns and more business support with particular focus on small and micro-businesses.

IFC’s support for the survey on the impact of COVID-19 on Fijian businesses has been complemented by the support of the Australian and New Zealand Governments under the Fiji Partnership.

Australia, New Zealand and IFC are working together through the Partnership to stimulate private sector investment, promote sustainable economic growth and boost shared prosperity in Fiji.




FTUC calls for VAT to be exempt from basic food items

By Naveel Krishant
Thursday 16/07/2020
FTUC National Secretary Felix Anthony.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress says they would like to see VAT to be exempted from basic food items in the National Budget announcement tomorrow night.

As close to 115,000 Fijians have been affected through job losses or reduced hours as a result of COVID-19, FTUC National Secretary, Felix Anthony says exempting VAT from basic food items will help people cope during these difficult times.

Anthony says they would also like to see that the FNPF contributions by employers be restored to 10 percent from 5 percent at the soonest.

He adds that they feel that was a mistake by government.

Anthony says they hope that some form of assistance will be aimed at lessening the burden on workers that have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says this should not just include people who are on minimum wage level but also include workers from Fiji Airways and ATS as well.




We expect some of the incentives announced in the COVID-19 Response Budget to assist the consumers to continue – Seema Shandil

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 16/07/2020
Consumer Council CEO, Seema Shandil.

Consumer Council CEO, Seema Shandil says they expect some of the incentives announced in the COVID-19 Response Budget to assist the consumers to continue, to promote small and medium businesses to create employment, boost consumer spending and to focus on consumption of Fiji made products.

Shandil says the focus will definitely be on economic recovery to cushion the blow from COVID-19 - support businesses, workers, families and communities hit hard by COVID-19.

She also says due consideration should be given to the welfare of the consumers when bringing in any changes in taxes or policies in the National Budget to be announced at 7.30 tonight.

Shandil says they know that policies have to be implemented that will benefit the whole economy.

She says they also support the reduction of taxes in the tourism sector that can result in more locals going to hotels, through the provision of attractive packages.




If there is a salary cut for civil servants, municipal councils will be affected – Premila Kumar

By Iva Danford
Thursday 16/07/2020
Minister for Local Government, Premila Kumar.

Minister for Local Government, Premila Kumar says if there is a salary cut for civil servants, municipal councils will be affected.

When asked in a press conference, Kumar says in a situation like this, it is not just the national government that needs to look at its revenue, but also the local government, because it is providing key services to the public.

She says if government is supporting families to put food on the table, they know that there are ratepayers that are facing difficulties and they may not be able to pay rates.

Kumar says each municipality is conducting the rate profiling exercise now.

There is no confirmation on pay cuts for civil servants.

The Minister highlighted that for the 2020-2021 financial year they will focus on completing capital projects which include the Lautoka Swimming pool.

Kumar says the Lautoka swimming pool project is being reviewed after a preliminary investigation was conducted.

She says that the lead consultant and contractor has been terminated and the special administrators are now working on the new scope of work where the tender will be called to complete the rest of the works.

She says 54 percent of the work is completed.

Kumar says the building which includes the changing room and the toilet facility is yet to be completed while only two percent of the works in the swimming pool is left.

She says the Lautoka City Council should be finalizing the scope of work soon. The Minister also highlighted that they also aim to look into the Municipal Councils Market policy, National Housing Policy, Urban Policy and to train the workforce to understand the laws better and enforce legislations.

She says collectively they have decided to do some corridor studies to reduce the time taken for investors to put in their application particularly for rezoning.

Kumar says they are looking at corridor studies like zoning McGregor Road in Suva, Kennedy Avenue in Nadi and Sunset Point in Korotogo, Sigatoka completely as commercial.

She says this is done so that when our economy improves and the border restrictions are lifted, Fiji will be ready for business.

Insert: Kumar rezoning

Kumar also confirmed that when the extended rural boundaries are included in the municipality, government is paying for the garbage collection.




Fiji should continue to focus on growing sectors like Agriculture even after tourism picks up - Chauhan

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 16/07/2020
Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation President, Sandeep Chauhan

Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation President, Sandeep Chauhan says the country should continue to focus on growing sectors like Agriculture even after tourism picks up and also focus on new sectors like call centres, Business Process Outsourcing, repacking of goods for exports and increasing food processing activities.

As we await the National Budget announcement tomorrow night, Chauhan says this is the time to look at incentives to grow other sectors as we cannot heavily rely on tourism.

Business Process Outsourcing refers to companies contracting its core business operations such as accounting, payment processing, IT services, human resources, regulatory compliance, and quality assurance to outside professionals who ensure the business runs smoothly.

Chauhan says he also agrees with the tourism and hotel sector that the Service Turnover Tax and Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy should be temporarily reduced to make our hotel packages more attractive.

He also says it is a good idea to reduce the import and customs duties on items as suggested by the hotel and tourism sector as this will reduce the overheads for the operators and also offer good prices to locals going to hotels.

Chauhan says we should also have more activities at the resorts for locals and hopefully some of the brighter minds in the tourism industry can work on that.

He says the focus needs to continue on Agriculture and we should not go back to our lazy days.

Chauhan says many years ago if you drove past the Navua area, you saw barren land but now you see Grace Road planting rice and other produce. He says it is also good to see the food processing companies like Fiji Coconut Millers or the Rice Company.

He says this is helping us to bring the import bill down, and we should encourage more people to buy local to help the local businesses because that is what will keep the economy going and that will ensure that people are employed.

Chauhan also calls on people to support local businesses as we all need each other to see these days out. He says we have come this far and we can’t be too far to see the end of the current situation.




National Sports Commission anticipates 50% budget reduction - Mazey

By Tifa Vataiki
Thursday 16/07/2020
National Sports Commission Chairman Peter Mazey. [image: file]

The Fiji National Sports Commission will be anticipating a 50% reduction in their budget allocation.

National Sports Commission Chairman Peter Mazey says most of their allocation will be for grants to sporting bodies and they hope their request for an allocation for the development of local sports offices is approved.

Mazey says the Sports Commission understands what the government is going through.

He says the grants will focus on sports that are preparing for the upcoming Olympics that will feature the Men’s and Women's Sevens teams and a few other sports.

He say they will also look at the Women’s 15s Rugby World Cup which Fiji qualified for last year.

Mazey says 26 sporting bodies have handed in their submission for grants and as of this year, all the sporting bodies who requested for funding have received it.




WAF purchases 22 generators to ensure they continue to supply water during a power outage

By Rashika Kumar
Wednesday 15/07/2020
WAF CEO Barry Omundson

The Water Authority of Fiji is waiting for the arrival of 22 generators from overseas that will be installed at certain treatment plants and pumping stations to ensure that they are able to continue to supply water when power outages occur.

WAF CEO Barry Omundson says border restrictions due to COVID-19 has slowed them down at the moment.

He says they have moved some generators around to certain areas that are more prone to electrical faults and they have seen the benefits in relation to continuing their services when power fluctuations occur.

Omundson says they have invested about $6 million for this project.

The CEO says WAF’s board has approved their new 5 year strategic plan that will see them focus on their existing plans and a long list of things that needs to be done and repaired.

The Authority was allocated $25.2 million in the current budget to improve water distribution systems.

It was announced in the 2019/2020 National Budget that the Authority has the target to provide clean water to 85% of Fijians in rural communities by 2021 under the Rural Water Supply Programme.

Omundson says they are pretty ambitious targets and they were always ambitious to achieve but they will continue to deliver those services to wherever and whenever they can.

Government had allocated $11.3 million for the programme in the budget.

Meanwhile, the CEO has also confirmed that construction works on the 40 megalitre treatment plant in Viria, Rewa is expected to be completed later next year as rain has caused some delays.

Funding for the project was provided by the Asian Development Bank ($13.5 million), European Investment Bank ($5.5 million), the Green Climate Fund ($13.3 million), and local sources ($20.7 million).

WAF is also expected to get major funding for the next financial year as they have had to forgo $28.4 million in revenue as all disconnections have been suspended until 31st December, 2020.

This was announced in the COVID-19 Response Budget in March this year.

Omundson says they have had to continue their operation even with this reduced income.

He also says that they will be satisfied with whatever is allocated to them in 2020/2021 National Budget and they have to make do with whatever they are given and they will get more efficient and deliver that service to Fijians.

WAF is responsible for over 144,000 residential and non-residential metered customers residing largely in urban areas, reaching over 700,000 people nationwide and bout 116,342 million litres of treated water is supplied to homes and businesses nationwide, each year.

WAF was provided with a total budget of $258.7 million in the 2019/2020 National Budget.

The 2020/2021 National Budget address will be delivered by the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at 7.30pm this Friday.




No new submissions for capital projects for Housing Ministry in the 2020-2021 National Budget - Kumar

By Iva Danford
Tuesday 14/07/2020
Minister for Local Government Premila Kumar

The Minister for Local Government Premila Kumar has confirmed that they have not made any new submissions for capital projects in the 2020-2021 National Budget, but they have requested for funds to continue with the First Home Buyers Grant, First Land Purchases Grant and Social Housing Grant.

She says under the Social Housing Grant they subsidize rent for Public Rental Board and Housing Assistance Relief Trust (HART) tenants.

Kumar says they have also asked for funds in the completion of Koroipita in Lautoka so that homes are provided for underprivileged people in the community.

She says they will continue with the formalization of informal settlements like Sakoca in Nasinu, Tore and Field 4 in Lautoka.

Kumar says three informal settlements should be ready by the end of this year which includes Waidamudamu, Cuvu and Ledrusasa where they will be given 99 year leases.

She says it is better for them to complete the existing projects rather than asking for more.

$2 million was allocated in the 2019-2020 National Budget to upgrade informal settlements.

Kumar says over 520 people have been assisted through the First Home Buyers Grant, First Land Purchases Grant with over $5.3 million.

She says in this time when a country goes through a recession, as a Ministry they need to focus on planning, change in policies and reviewing procedures so that they can streamline the system and reduce any wastage if there is any.

Kumar says if they fix their policies and procedures they will minimize corrupt practices.

She says there should be checks and balances in place, like who decides on who should be the new tenant.

Kumar says the ministries’ budget is expected to decrease depending on what the focus of the budget would be.




FTU hoping the issue of MY APA payments is addressed in the budget

By Shanil Singh
Tuesday 14/07/2020
General Secretary Agni Deo Singh and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

The Fiji Teachers Union is hoping that the issue of teachers who have not received their annual increment under the My Annual Performance Assessment Payments for the past 3 years is addressed in the 2020/2021 National Budget.

General Secretary Agni Deo Singh says this is to ensure that teachers are rewarded for the hard work that they do which is a legitimate expectation.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had earlier said in parliament that the 2017/2018 My Annual Performance Assessment Payments will be made to the Ministry of Education staff who have been assessed and moderated as eligible for performance pay increase before the end of this financial year.

Singh says there is also an urgent need for more classrooms in some schools as some classrooms are highly populated and these classes need to be split for better education.

$1.5 million was allocated for construction of new facilities in the 2019/2020 National Budget.

When asked if asking for an increase in the number of teachers and classrooms is justified considering the significant drop in government revenue, Singh says it is for the state to see how best they can make provisions within the constraints to ensure that the quality of education is not affected.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the national budget address at 7.30pm this Friday.




NFP Leader says economy contracted in 2019 and COVID-19 is not an excuse while RBF Governor says they have not blamed 2019 contraction on COVID-19

By Vijay Narayan, Dhanjay Deo
Tuesday 14/07/2020
National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman and Governor of the RBF Ariff Ali

The National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says the economy contracted in 2019 and COVID-19 is not an excuse while the Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor, Ariff Ali says they have not blamed the 2019 contraction on COVID-19.

Professor Prasad has questioned as to how the RBF got Fiji’s economic growth rate for 2019 wrong and why has it taken until July this year for the RBF to admit that in 2019 the economy went down and not up.

He says the RBF released a statement on the 2nd of this month saying the provisional growth estimate for 2019 has been revised from a marginal 0.5% to a 1.3% contraction, in line with the synchronised global slowdown and weakness in domestic demand from the second half of last year.

Professor Prasad says the RBF has now finally bowed to reality over politics and revised Fiji’s economic growth rate for 2019 to -1.3%. He says this was all before anybody even had heard the word “coronavirus” and COVID-19 is not an excuse.

Biman-outside-Parliament

He adds that everybody knew the economy was down last year and the government knew it because its revenue collections were one-quarter off the National Budget.

The NFP Leader says the Chairman of the Macroeconomic Committee and Governor of the RBF, Ariff Ali in a statement released on 7th November last year had stated that the Fijian economy is anticipated to grow in 2019 by 1.0% following a 3.5% expansion in 2018.

In his statement, Professor Biman Prasad is questioning whether the RBF was under pressure from the government to continue to pretend that there was a “Bainimarama Boom” – when everybody knew differently.

RBF Governor, Ariff Ali says he does not understand why Prasad is misleading the public as nowhere in the RBF statement it is claimed that the contraction in the economy in 2019 has been blamed on COVID-19.

Ali says the press release issued on 2nd July regarding the 2019 growth rate says that the provisional GDP growth estimate for 2019 has been revised from a marginal 0.5% growth to a 1.3%t contraction, in line with the synchronised global slowdown and weakness in domestic demand from the second half of last year.

He says the 2019 growth rate was revised downwards due to availability of actual data and information for the year that was collated and analysed by the Macroeconomic Committee in March and April of this year.

Ali says because the National Budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 was delayed to July, the Macroeconomic Committee met in early July instead of the usual May or early June.

The RBF Governor says the effects of COVID-19 is reflected only in the 2020 economic contraction of 21.7%.

The Macroeconomic Committee is made up of Heads and senior representatives from the Ministry of Economy, Fiji Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Office of the Prime Minister, Investment Fiji, Fiji Revenue and Customs Service and is chaired by the Governor of the RBF.

It is this Committee that confirms and releases the forecast and provisional GDP, exports, imports and balance of payments estimates for Fiji.

Governor Ali says the Macroeconomic Committee has been consistently downgrading the 2019 growth forecast since early last year.

CEO-sm

He says in 2018, growth for 2019 was projected at 3.4%.

Ali says when the forecasts were reviewed in May 2019, the Macroeconomic Committee lowered the 2019 growth forecast to 2.7% and then downgraded further to 1.0% in November 2019.

He says these downgrades reflected new data being made available to the technical staff including production data from various sectors, revised forecast provided by stakeholders and RBF’s June 2019 Business Expectations and Retail Sales Surveys.

The Governor says in preparation for the COVID-19 Response Budget in February this year, the RBF’s estimate for 2019 growth was downgraded further to 0.5%.

He says later, when the Macroeconomic Technical Committee met in April and May in preparation for the 2020-21 National Budget, the estimate for 2019 was further downgraded to -1.3% as the Committee now had access to actual 2019 production data for most of the sectors including government accounts.

Ali says economic forecasts reflect the most available data and sentiments at the point in time and are then adjusted upwards or downwards as new data and information comes to hand.

The Governor says the Macroeconomic Committee conducts and reviews the forecast twice annually.

The first round of forecasting is undertaken just before the release of the National Budget around May or June and the second round is done around October.




We have been briefed on the status of Fiji’s economy and know how the 2020/2021 National Budget will pen out – Dr. Reddy

By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 08/07/2020
Minister for Agriculture and Waterways Dr. Mahendra Reddy - [Photo: Fijian Government]

Minister for Agriculture and Waterways, Dr. Mahendra Reddy says he has been fully briefed by the Minister for Economy on the status of Fiji’s economy and they know how the 2020/2021 National Budget will pen out.

The 2020/2021 National budget will be delivered by the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at 7.30pm next Friday.

Dr. Reddy says as we are now living in extraordinary times, they are planning to re-look at their strategies on how they can work smartly to achieve the same objectives in the next financial year.

However, Dr. Reddy has assured that all initiatives announced by the Ministry of Agriculture earlier this year will continue.

Ministry of Agriculture was allocated $78.7 million in the 2019-2020 Budget.

A major focus is expected to be put on those farmers who are members of the fully-managed commercial farms that have contracts with Fiji Agro Marketing as government has already announced plans regarding food security and agriculture growth plan for the country.

Last month saw a major inroad where it was revealed that imported produce like carrots and celery will now be planted in the 125 acres of Nubu farms and the 42 farmers who will be farming in this land will also grow traditional Fijian staples like duruka and dalo.

With the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama already highlighting that not all the food that tourists want to eat is grown locally in commercial quantities, funding is expected to be driven towards planting of items like carrots and celery for Fiji to become self sufficient. Fiji imported over $5.4 million worth of carrots and over $1.8 million worth of celery last year.

In addition to this, government is also expected to continue providing initiatives to increase rice farming where the Ministry of Agriculture is already providing rice seeds up to 30kg (for 1-acre farms) to every sugarcane farmer.

Dr. Reddy says they will also be providing rice seeds up to 30kg to every non-sugarcane farmer and will also assist them to mill their rice for home consumption by providing small portable rice mills close to their area when rice paddy is ready for milling.

They will also provide rice seeds to all 1,100 villages for community based rice farming.

The seeds will be provided following a signed commitment by the village Turaga-ni-Koro and the amount of rice seed to be provided will be equivalent to the population size of the village.

In 2019, Fiji imported $42.6m worth of rice.

Dr. Reddy says the Ministry Agriculture also has an objective to increase production and productivity for goat, sheep, beef and dairy products in Fiji.

He says they are establishing new breeds for cattle, goats, and sheep to be given out to farmers and these new breeds will replace the low yielding breeds which have lost their original genetic traits due to inbreeding over time.

Meanwhile, 33,000 families have received the seed packages from the Agriculture Ministry’s Farming Response for Backyard Gardening Package.

The Ministry will restart the seed distribution initiative for backyard farming at the end of September this year.




Fiji FA wants duty on sporting and training equipment to be exempted

By Dhanjay Deo
Tuesday 07/07/2020
Fiji FA’s CEO, Mohammed Yusuf

The Fiji Football Association has made a submission to the Ministry of Economy ahead of the 2020/2021 National Budget to consider exempting duty on sporting and training equipment for their development programs and National teams.

Fiji FA’s CEO, Mohammed Yusuf says these sporting equipment are given by FIFA, the Oceania Football Confederation and other overseas-based donor agencies.

He says these items are not for sale but to be given to athletes for free.

Yusuf says the Fiji FA had to pay a lot in duties last year for these sporting equipment but due to the severe impacts of COVID-19, they will not be able to pay duty for these important sporting items this year.

He says while they do understand the government needs revenue which is mostly derived from taxes and duties, their situation has also worsened where revenue has been negatively affected.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the 2020/2021 National Budget at 7.30pm next Friday.




Budget to be delivered at 7.30pm on Friday 17th July

By Vijay Narayan
Monday 29/06/2020
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will deliver the National Budget address at 7.30pm on Friday 17th July.

The parliamentary secretariat has also confirmed that the National Budget debate will take place from Monday 27th July to Friday 31st July 2020.




Govt could be looking at incentives for those hotels and resorts who will look at offering attractive tourist packages with Fiji Airways - AG

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 26/06/2020
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they are mulling over the proposals that have been put forward to reduce taxes and duties in the tourism sector and in other areas however he says the concerns remain on whether any reductions will result in changes to the pricing structure in the hotel industry.

While speaking in the 2020/2021 National Budget consultation in Lautoka, Sayed-Khaiyum says the government could be looking at incentives for those hotels and resorts who will look at offering attractive tourist packages with Fiji Airways.

Sayed-Khaiyum says duties on goods are significantly reasonable at the moment and there have been concerns raised in the past where the reduction of duties have not been passed on to the consumers.

He made the comment after a question raised by businessman, Abdul Khan for the government to look at reducing duties on imported goods to spur construction activity.

The Minister says the government knows that this is a good time to build and they are looking at options.



Fiji Airways CEO hints fare from Australia to Fiji could go down to about AUD$450

By Naveel Krishant
Friday 26/06/2020
Fiji Airways CEO and Managing Director Andre Viljoen. [image: Fijian Government]

Fiji Airways CEO and Managing Director, Andre Viljoen says to get maximum number of tourists during the Bula Bubble, the airline company is looking at reducing the airfare from Australia to Fiji from AUD$654 to AUD$450.

While speaking in the National Budget Consultation in the western division, Viljoen says they aim to bring 300,000 people to Fiji for the duration of the Bula Bubble, once the date is confirmed.

Viljoen adds nobody knows how long the bubble lasts but they do have to be ready.

He says they have to create value packages that is so compelling that every Australian and Kiwi would want to come to Fiji.

Viljoen says they have approached the government to see how they can help the airline.




Govt in discussions with multilateral partners for the financing of the National Budget

By Dhanjay Deo
Friday 26/06/2020
Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Economy, Makereta Konrote. [image: Fijian Govt]

The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Economy, Makereta Konrote says because of the impact of COVID-19, government revenue has been severely affected and they are currently in discussions with their multilateral partners for the financing of the National Budget.

Konrote says their multilateral partners like the Asian Development Bank and World Bank’s financing terms are extremely concessional where they get good repayment terms which are around 40 years and almost 0 percent interest rates.

She says it will help government in terms of long term servicing of debt.

Yesterday, the World Bank approved funding of US$7.4 million to further support the government of Fiji to strengthen its health systems in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency.

The World Bank’s US$7.4m commitment to Fiji is being delivered through a US$6.4m dedicated emergency health project through the International Development Association. This financing is provided on concessional terms under the Small Islands Economies Exception with 0% interest, a 10-year grace period and 40 years maturity.

The additional US$1 million grant will be drawn from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility.




Printing more money will lead to a huge inflation

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 25/06/2020
Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [image: Fijian Govt]

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says there will be a huge inflation in the country if the Reserve Bank of Fiji prints notes valued at $1 billion as the value of the Fijian dollar will come down.

Sayed-Khaiyum made this comments after Nadi Chamber of Commerce President, Doctor Ram Raju asked him on whether the Reserve Bank of Fiji can print $1 billion and give it to the Ministry of Economy at a zero percent interest rate. Doctor Raju says he wanted the clarification as this has been suggested by one of the economists.

Sayed-Khaiyum says this step will not be taken by RBF.

While responding, the Attorney General has also revealed that the country’s Debt to Gross Domestic Product Ratio is expected to go higher than 60 percent as government revenue is not as strong as it used to be.

The Minister for Economy says prior to COVID-19, 70 percent of the government’s borrowings has been onshore and 30 percent has been offshore.

However he says going forward, the government plans to borrow more money offshore because if you have less tourists coming in, the foreign currency levels will go down. He says they need to maintain healthy foreign reserve levels.

Sayed-Khaiyum says this is fine for now but foreign reserves could get depleted soon if we do not have tourists coming in and exports don’t pick up.




No plans to legalise marijuana – Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 25/06/2020
Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [image: Fijian Govt]

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says if you get into the space of legalising marijuana or Indian Hemp, the country could be blacklisted.

Sayed-Khaiyum was responding to a question posed by Nadi Chamber of Commerce President, Doctor Ram Raju during the National Budget consultation in Nadi on whether the government is planning to legalise marijuana.

dr-raju

The Minister for Economy says there are no plans to do that.

The 2020/2021 National Budget will be announced on July 17th.




30 high net worth individuals from a well known company arrive in a private jet and will spend 3 months here

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 25/06/2020
Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [image: Fijian Govt.]

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the government has given approval for a private jet to come in with a group of 30 high net worth individuals from a well-known company.

Sayed-Khaiyum has confirmed during the National Budget consultation in Nadi that the group arrived in the jet and has gone in a sea plane to an island resort.

They will spend three months in the country.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they will continue to balance the health risks and ensure that we have pathways for economic recovery.

The National Budget will be announced on July 17




National Budget to be announced on July 17th

By Rashika Kumar
Thursday 25/06/2020
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama

The National Budget will be announced on July 17th.

This has been confirmed by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the opening of the Nakasi Fire Station.

He is urging Fijians to make their submissions for the National Budget for which they have exactly 3 weeks.



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