The National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says the current crisis has destroyed the economic foundations of Government revenue, and we can no longer raise enough money from taxation, fees and other sources to pay for even basic Government services.
While speaking on the National Budget, Professor Prasad says the Government does not only have to pay for those basic services, it now also has to support tens of thousands of people whose own economic foundations have been destroyed through loss of their jobs and businesses.
He says Government debt is already crippling, and we now depend on gifts from Australia and New Zealand just to pay Government’s day-to-day bills.
Professor Prasad says for at least the next three years, Government’s finances will be “hand to mouth”.
He says as soon as some money comes in, Fiji will have bills to pay, including $80 million to $100 million per month in debt repayment.
The NFP Leader says in the past 10 years the Government has strongly influenced our economic lives. He says this is because it has borrowed heavily and spent heavily.
Professor Prasad says for whatever purpose, Government spending will be lower.
He says the Government will have very little money to throw around.
The NFP Leader sees the Government spending a lot of it to just repay its debts.
Professor Prasad says for years they have asked for summits and proper national discussions on issues such as the economy, education, the sugar industry, domestic violence and health.
He says maybe the Government has its own plans for these things.
Professor Prasad says they all need to be heard and they all need to be part of these plans.
He says if the people are part of the planning they will know the plan, and they can help the Government to achieve it.
The NFP Leader also says we need a shared vision for the twenty-first century.
Professor Prasad says this must be a vision which people share in the design and if the Government just tries to dictate this, we all waste time, because the next Government may just change direction.
The NFP Leader says they want to see an economy which looks to the next 20 years’ challenges and how we use our strengths to meet them.
He says in the next decades the world will demand high-quality agricultural products – food, timber and other organic products which we can harvest from land and sea.
Professor Prasad says the world will demand personal services – around information technology, medical care, sports as entertainment – which we can supply.
He says the Government must be honest enough and humble enough to ask countries like Australia and New Zealand for help, and it must be honest enough, and humble enough to say to our own people – “we cannot do this alone. We also need your help”.
The NFP Leader says this is the beginning of rebuilding and it is about leadership.
He says this is more important than $100 million spent here or a tax break granted there.
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