Fiji's Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says the 2013 National Budget is for the people and it will set the stage for the 2014 General Elections which will see the full restoration of parliamentary democracy.
While announcing the budget in Suva this afternoon, Bainimarama said 2013 will long be remembered as the year that Fiji made a bold investment in its future.
"Since I presented the budget last year, nearly half a million Fijians have registered to vote in the election, and we expect to register many more. We are formulating a new constitution with a set of unassailable, universally-accepted principles. Our economy is stable and growing."
"They said we couldn’t do it. We have.They say we will never have parliamentary democracy. We will."
We are on our way. And it will be a fairer democracy; a more equal democracy; a democracy that is built to last. There is one big difference between my Government and those that came before it. We deliver. And we deliver for all Fijians and in return, we expect all citizens to meet certain standards of behavior," said the Prime Minister.
He said there is too much personal dishonesty and abuse of the system and urged all citizens to be loyal and honest to themselves and the nation.
"We see it in all areas, from those who abuse the free bus vouchers for school children, to those who abuse the social welfare system, to those who continue to break the law by not paying taxes and customs duties. It is also unacceptable that importers and traders continue to charge ordinary Fijians and our visitors exorbitant prices even after Government has zero-rated or reduced duty."
"We will not tolerate tax evaders, welfare cheats, or those who unfairly deny ordinary Fijians access to affordable goods just as we won’t tolerate corruption. It is the Government’s obligation to the majority of law-abiding and decent Fijians."
Bainimarama said the 2013 Budget decisively tackles some vital areas of need in our nation and especially one of its biggest challenges – the state of our roads.
"Only by an ambitious spending initiative can we overcome our greatest infrastructure problem and one of the biggest barriers to Fiji’s economic development."
"So we will do a lot more to fix our roads by increasing our national deficit - from 1.9 per cent to 2.8 per cent .Yes, it is an increase. But it is not reckless spending. It is a focused and disciplined approach to building the nation’s economic capacity. It is a long-term investment in infrastructure that will bear fruit for us in greater productivity."
"It is a responsible way to solve a long-acknowledged problem, and every Fijian knows that it is necessary," said Bainimarama.
"We intend to build on my government’s proud record of service delivery to the Fijian people- not only in roads but in a host of other areas that have been neglected for far too long.Ordinary people will see a difference and this budget will affect every household."
He said they are promising a government that works for all Fijians meaning they will push relentlessly for equality of all Fijians.
"We will push relentlessly for opportunity and justice for all Fijians. And we will do our best to keep all Fijians safe and secure.Regardless of religion or ethnicity, whether male or female, urban or rural, young or old, we are all endowed by our nation with the same rights, privileges and opportunities. And this budget reflects that."
"This budget will strengthen law and order. It will make justice more accessible. It will encourage investment and economic growth. And it will make Fiji stronger and smarter."
"Our overall aim is to modernise and streamline all the instruments of government. Civil servants need to be better servants of the people. And they need to be supported by strong institutions, better rewards and more efficient processes," he concluded.
By Reginald Chandar