Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry should not condemn the consultative and dialogue process undertaken by the Government for the upcoming National Economic Summit.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad said this in response to comments made by Mr Chaudhry at the Fiji Public Service Association (FPSA) annual general meeting on Saturday.
Mr Chaudhry, a former FPSA general secretary, said the Fiscal Review Committee and the calling of the Economic Summit was a “smokescreen – an exercise in passing the buck under the guise of consultation and inclusivity”.
He told members of FPSA that they must get ready for austerity measures as the recommendations are going to come from the committee and the economic summit to “whom the minister has outsourced this rather unpleasant task”.
“In my opinion, such committees or summits usually tend to err on the side of the employers because they are generally dominated by powerful interest groups,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Prof Prasad said Mr Chaudhry was probably a lone voice in condemning the appointment of the committee and the hosting of the summit.
“Mr Chaudhry was part of the dictatorship for a while, so he obviously doesn’t believe in consultation and dialogue,” he said.
“He probably doesn’t know that there is a widespread support for the process that is followed.
“That summit is to bring as many people as possible together to specifically look at various sectors of our economy and society.”
He said the committee would produce a report to the Ministry of Finance before Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka hosts the summit in April.
“Of course, the Government will in the end decide through Cabinet processes what will be the final budget.
“My advice to him is not to condemn the consultative process, not to undermine the people who have come forward to serve on the Fiscal Review Committee.
“These are people who are not there to make money or collect allowances.
“These are people who mean well for the country, who want to help the Government and instead of thanking them and welcoming them, Mr Chaudhry is back to his old style of rubbishing dialogue and consultation.”
Prof Prasad also confirmed that processes had already begun for public submissions on the 2023-2024 National Budget preparation.