Parliament has passed 11 National Budget consequential bills.
These bills included the Tax Administration Act 2009, Income Tax Act 2015, Value Added Tax Act 1991, Customs Act 1986, Customs Tariff Act 1986, Excise Act 1986, Superyacht Charter Act 2010, Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Act 2014, Insurance Act 1998, Veterinary Surgeons Act 1956 and Fisheries Act 1941.
While tabling the bills, Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the Income Tax Act is being amended to remove the concessionary rate of 17% for international or regional companies relocating their headquarters to Fiji and increases it to 20%.
He says the Customs Act is amended to allow any person engaging in business of forwarding cargo on board a ship or a cargo without a license commits an offence and liable to conviction.
Sayed-Khaiyum says a lot of people are becoming agents ad hoc but there is a need for people to be licensed as there have been cases of people using services provided by these organizations who disappear overnight and their goods gets lost.
These freight forwarders have been given until the end of August to obtain the license.
While speaking on the amendment on the Excise Act, Sayed-Khaiyum says an import of excise of 5% will now be imposed on the importation of new diesel or petrol passenger vehicle, fiscal duty rate of 5% will apply on the importation of new hybrid passenger cars and fiscal duty on used passenger vehicle, either diesel, patrol or hybrid will increase by $1,000 per unit.
He says import VAT will not apply to importation of pure electric power supply buses, passenger cars and motor bikes. Superyacht Charter Act is amended where the definition of “superyacht” to decrease the minimum length of a superyacht from 24 metres to 18 metres and to decrease the charter fee from $USD55,000 to $USD30,000.
Amendments to the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Act 2014 is done to allow for the change of name of the Act from “Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Act” to Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Service Act”.
It also allows removal of the the Secretariat and provide for the appointment of the CEO who can then appoint employees of the Service.
Changes to the Insurance Act provides a maximum license term of 5 years for a license issued to a person to carry on a business as an agent for an insurer.
Amendments to the Veterinary Surgeons Act provides for the registration of persons as veterinary surgeons.
Changes to the Fisheries Act 1941 provides that a fishing vessel used for trade or business is to be registered and the registration is renewed annually.
Sayed-Khaiyum says for a licence to be issued to fish in a registered customary fishing grounds, a permit issued by the Commissioner of a Division is first required and the permit is granted for a period not exceeding 3 years, but expires on 31 December each year.
He says the Commissioner will first consult the customary fishing owners before issuing the permit.
The Minister says the process of applying for a licence or permit every year and of the renewal of the registration of a fishing vessel annually can be time consuming and creates administrative and logistic difficulties and as a result, a fisher may not have a lot of opportunities to secure bank loans and to invest in their fishing business due to the short period of a licence or permit granted.
This causes a hindrance to fishers who wish to operate their fishing business to earn their livelihood so the bill seeks to amend the Act to give certainty and allow for more investment, particularly in terms of securing bank loans in which providing for a longer tenure for a licence, the registration of a fishing vessel, and the Permit, will encourage investment in commercial fishing business.
The bill also amends the Act to clarify that, a Permit granted to fish in a customary fishing ground will only be granted by the Commissioner upon consultation with the customary fishing owners.
The requirement for consent from the customary fishing owners further reinforces the current practice and strengthens and protects the rights of customary fishing owner.
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