Opposition Member of Parliament Mosese Bulitavu claims that the 2023-2024 National Budget is deceptive and prepared by a very confused Government.
Speaking during the 2023-2024 National Budget debate in Parliament on Monday afternoon, Bulitavu said the message in this particular budget is very simple: ‘It is trying to increase revenue, and at the same time, it will increase the deficit but no infrastructure works will be done.’
“The platform that the Minister of Finance should have started with to start with a mini-budget that should have laid the platform for his national budget, but he yet opted to redeploy funds from here and there and that took away necessary services for the key areas such as agriculture health, that this particular budget is trying to resolve.”
“72 per cent of the budget is on operating expenditure only 28 per cent is on capital expenditure. That is the reality of this particular budget and how it looks and the people will suffer more, given it’s a large spending budget and it’s the biggest budget deficit outside the pandemic.”
Bulitavu justified that the FijiFirst Government never took Fiji’s debt to more than $10 billion even during the pandemic but he said this budget will set a new record in Fiji’s overall debt that will come to $10.5 billion in 2024.
“It came out in the Ministry of Finance quarter report, that the Government during the first quarter from January to April has some excessed round about $223.2 million in borings by the coalition Government themselves and they are borrowing in a much faster rate 12.4 per cent increase faster than the same period last year.”
“If that’s allowed to go, I don’t know how higher terms about that. But this debt theory, put on by the Government during the campaign, is trying to scare people that debt is really high.”
“If you put debt into perspective, most of our domestic debts are just with FNPF. Investment through FNPF helps with Government loans from FNPF and when it repays debts, it is benefited by those employees that have their funds at FNPF. It strengthens our economy because the money circulates locally.”
He added the budget has a deficit of $636 million and questioned the Minister of Finance Professor Biman Prasad where he got the deficit from.
“You loaned again from FNPF, the very same institution that you used to say before that the FijiFirst Government was killing. The deficit of this particular budget will be funded again from our local institution through our local debts that are there.”
“But again Prasad is very fond of trying to compare the economic status during COVID with the rate of debt per GDP which is 88.8 per cent but that’s post-COVID and pre-COVID it was 48.8 per cent ratio, and that is where FijiFirst had been taking our economy to a booming stage.”
“The amount of revenue that the FijiFirst had earned at that time, pre-COVID was $2.8 billion and even last year, FRCS was able to collect $1.8 billion in revenue and now you have a very ambitious budget, in trying to put out that FRC will try to collect $3.7 billion and I think they will not even reach their target.”
“The deficit will be there, you will loan more and there will be no development. Our people were expecting more investments in the private sector in terms of the construction of roads, there is no capital expenditure here to say that there will be the construction of roads or housing that will create employment, that people who will work and also gain more income so that they can spend through consumption that will help in the economic spin.”
“That is not the environment that is provided by this particular budget. We also see that there is more duplication and wastage in this particular budget. On one hand, you have PWD, on the other hand, you still have FRA and I don’t know what PWD will do. Probably soon it’ll be doing some private work department. These are some of the things that we really need to focus on and put money into areas that will really assist our people.”
The debate continues today.