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September 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM
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Two of Fiji’s business sector groups have asked the government to make the protection of local industry a priority in the 2010 Budget.

The Fiji Employers Federation (FEF) and the Fiji Chamber of Commerce (FCC) made the call at pre-Budget consultations between government and the private sector in Suva this week.

FEF President Digby Bossley said local manufacturers should be protected through tariffs on imports or quotas should be set on imports in sectors that had locally produced goods, for example the poultry industry.

To increase the competitiveness of domestic industries, locally manufactured goods which have more than one manufacturer should have price control removed, Bossley said.

Chamber of Commerce president Swani Maharaj said local investors needed to be encouraged through an import substitution policy with a time frame for tariff protection and gradual reduction.

Maharaj suggested a tariff protection level of at least 30 percent on goods genuinely manufactured in Fiji for example soap, biscuits, bio–diesel fuel and coconut oil.

“No reduction on tariff for years one and two, subsequently decreasing by five percent every two years until reduced to 15 percent.”

Otherwise he said, industries would die.

“It will mean job losses, loss of FNPF earnings, tax and income for FEA etc. There will be a widespread filtered effect.”

Maharaj also said government must engage industry stakeholders and producers of local raw materials and link them to markets and industry.

“Fiji is a shockingly remiss in such planning,” Maharaj said.

In his presentation, Bossley suggested that productivity gains indices should be considered for the Minimum Wage Orders enacted this year.

Fiji’s 12 public holidays also needed to be reduced, he said, while calling on government departments to improve their level of service.

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