Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has expressed serious concerns at the warning from Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad, that tax increases are “inevitable”.
In a statement the former Prime Minister said this is quite disturbing as any increase in taxes, more so an increase in VAT and Customs Duty, will hit hard the lower to middle income families as it will push up prices.
Chaudhry said as things stand, the poor and low income families simply do not have the capacity to sustain any further increases in the cost of living.
Chaudhry’s warning on tax increases come as Professor Prasad announced the setting up of a 14-member Fiscal Review Committee and said it is inevitable that there will be increases in taxation.
“The committee is tasked to examine the overall setting of government’s fiscal policy and make recommendations how to rebalance government revenue and expenditure, grow the economy and ensure the government is fiscally sustainable over the next decade.”
The former Prime Minister is also critical of the composition of the committee.
The FLP Leader said it is regrettable that the membership of the Fiscal Review Committee is mostly drawn from the well off in the community.
Chaudhry said he does not see the workers or the farming community – the very people who are most vulnerable to Fiji’s economic and social woes – being fairly represented.
“Professor Prasad says taxes have to be increased, so we can reduce our debt levels and “find billions of dollars to invest in health, water, road, climate adaptation, energy and housing”.
The FLP Leader added this could mean substantial increases in both tax and non-tax revenue.