‘Focus on improving incomes’ – Finance Minister on Fiji Budget

Fiji’s Finance Minister Biman Prasad unveiled the coalition government’s second Budget on Friday, saying “the focus must be on raising incomes and improving the peoples overall quality of life”.

Prasad announced the total government expenditure for the 2024-2025 Budget will be of FJ$4.552 billion with the projected revenue of $3.917b – a net deficit of about FJ$635.5, or 4.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

It aims to address government debt, cost of living, funding boosts for education, deteriorating infrastructure, and funding for a narcotics bureau.

While delivering the Budget, he declared the Budget focuses on “economic stability and patiently building foundations for the future”.

Education gets the biggest slice of the budget pie with FJ$778 million.

A new Narcotics Bureau will be established with help from the Australian Federal Police supporting the new police commissioner.

Minimum wage increases by a dollar from FJ$4 to FJ$5 will bring some relief for those on the lower end of the social economic scale.

While a five percent excise tax increase on alcohol and tobacco products will upset some consumers.

Prasad also announced the government debt – which sits at about 90 percent of the GDP – is projected to decline to around 77.8 percent by the end of July 2025.

The Fijian government has gone all out on investing in the next generation with scholarships, paying off its USP debt and tackling youth unemployment.

Fiji's Finance Minister Biman Prasad responds to media at the post-Budget press conference.

About $778m has been provided towards education and skill development, the largest allocation in Budget in the hopes of “empowering graduates to pursue higher education.”

It is a response to tackle the brain drain and serious skills shortage, with at least three percent of Fiji’s population having left the country in the past 18 months.

Prasad blamed the previous government for inheriting a raft of issues.

“It is our coalition government that has been left for this problem,” he said.

“Challenges we face in terms of poverty, NCDs, drugs, domestic violence and inequality, these challenges do not stop or start between elections. They go on for generations.”

The immediate focus in the new plan is to “get the basics right”, he said, and address everyday “challenges like water, roads, drainage, hospitals, health services, housing and education.”

The government will also focus on fighting drugs, HIV AIDS, NCDs, climate change, gender violence and promoting reconciliation and unity.

The Ministry of Agriculture has also been allocated FJ$101m – a significant boost.

“We need to train the younger generation to get into farming,” he said.

A big boost for indigenous Fijians has also been prioritised.

Ministry of iTaukei Affairs allocation has jumped to FJ$39.4m budget compared to around FJ$17m prior to the coalition government.

Indigenous companies can now qualify for tax holidays and duty concessions if they invest in the Tax Free Regions.

The Fiji Military Forces gets close to FJ$170m for ” peace-keeping, safety and security”.

“We have given people back their freedoms, increased the minimum wage and national debt from 90 percent to 78 percent percent by this time next year.

“We know the government is not always perfect but our commitment to the people of Fiji is that we will continue to listen. We are open to criticism and new ideas and creating an environment to discuss,” Prasad said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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