Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says the problems in the economy cannot be fixed by appointing committees and holding summits and that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad has not given pertinent answers to the concerns raised by Chaudhry on Prasad’s statement that tax increases were “inevitable”.
While responding to Professor Prasad, Chaudhry says its Professor Prasad who has jumped the gun by announcing there will be tax increases even before the Fiscal Review Committee had commenced its work and not him as he is only pointing out the impact tax increases will have on the lives of our poor - particularly with increases in VAT and Customs Duty.
Chaudhry says while these may be good public relations exercise but the fact remains that such initiatives are usually dominated by powerful interest groups who push their own agenda above those of the nation and the people.
He says we have been through this road many times before only to find that income disparities have widened further and that the poor have become poorer.
The Labour Leader also says while the Minister seems adamant on imposing tax increases, he is very quiet on his election campaign promises to bring down the cost of living, review the national minimum wage, increase welfare allowances and the guaranteed minimum cane price among other things as the difficult situation we face today demands urgency of action.
He says the Prime Minister’s call for a mini budget should have been heeded by the Minister.
Professor Prasad had earlier stated that this is a government that is determined to address the fundamental problems within the economy including high levels of debt.
He says they will ensure that there is fiscal reconsideration and balance between fiscal consolidation and looking after the people.
The Deputy Prime Minister says Chaudhry probably has not seen the list properly and talking about the lead group.
Professor Prasad says Chaudhry should leave the Fiscal Committee to do its job.
He says there will also be an economic summit in which all the opposition will be invited to join, listen to the people, and take their views into account.
Prasad says to jump and say that the government is not going to look after the poor reflects his ignorance of what the role of the committee is.
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