Biman urges FijiFirst to adopt new approach

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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Professor Biman Prasad during an interview yesterday. Picture: ATU RASEA

Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad says it is high time for FijiFirst to become a constructive and meaningful party and carve a new approach to politics in the country.

He made the comment in response to a statement by FijiFirst general-secretary Faiyaz Koya, saying the party had “obviously and deliberately” ignored the full facts as was provided in the RBF statement.

He said the RBF statement had touched upon several things, including the strong rebound of the economy to pre-pandemic levels much faster than earlier expected.

“Mr Koya needs to be reminded that under the FijiFirst government, there were three years of massive economic contraction since 2019,” Prof Prasad said.

He said this was partly due to COVID and largely due to FijiFirst government’s economic mismanagement and inability to diversify the economy and get the private sector to drive growth.

“The RBF noted the impressive recovery in the tourism industry with an all-time high visitor arrival of 929,740 in 2023 – a new record for Fiji.

“Here, the credit goes to all our hardworking tourism stakeholders, including thousands of our committed hospitality workers, and not to FijiFirst, as claimed by Mr Koya.

“On the departure tax of $140 from January 1, 2024, Mr Koya needs to be reminded that during their time and when he was Minister for Tourism, departure tax was $200 with an additional 25 per cent tax (9 per cent VAT, 10 per cent ECAL and 6 per cent STT).

“Now we have $140 departure tax ($60 lower) and a 15 per cent VAT only. So, this claim that we are making the tourism industry uncompetitive is ludicrous. In fact, it was the FijiFirst government that had killed the tourism industry by overtaxing it.”

He added that in terms of 2024 being a challenging year, the Government agreed with the RBF assessment that after the massive recovery in the tourism industry and the overall economy, growth would taper off to Fiji’s trend growth rate of around 3 per cent.

“This doesn’t mean the economy is contracting as they seem to imply.

“We are now returning to trend growth as the tourism industry has peaked with capacity constraints now.

“Our resource sectors are not doing as well as they should do, and the skill migration is having an impact on the workforce and the economy.

“Nonetheless, the Coalition Government is working with the private sector and other stakeholders to address these challenges.

“We have, as a Government, already put in plans and budget to accelerate our technical training.

“We are removing the bottlenecks that have been identified through good and inclusive stakeholder dialogue and discussion.

“There are also investments as pointed out by Investment Fiji that are taking off and they will all contribute to the overall economic growth.”

According to Prof Prasad, the Coalition Government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, was firmly focused on delivering not only better services to the people but also, providing an enabling environment for sustained economic growth.

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