Opposition Member of Parliament Premila Kumar has labelled the 2023-2024 National Budget as disappointing, underwhelming, unfair, irresponsible, unimaginative and very deceitful.
Speaking in Parliament, the former Minister for Education said the budget raises serious concerns regarding its impact on citizens, businesses and the overall economy.
Kumar said the increase in VAT, duties and corporate tax will have a detrimental effect on the economy and the livelihood of citizens.
“This budget lacks a comprehensive strategy for lowering the cost of living for ordinary Fijians; or promoting private sector growth, essential for creating jobs and boosting economic productivity.”
She also stated that after so much frenzy that the debt is high, and we need to control the expenditure and start paying the debt, the Minister for Finance did the opposite.
She criticized the Government for choosing to borrow more on operations rather than capital works.
“The Minister for Finance has delivered the largest deficit, outside the pandemic years, in the Fijian history. There is no sign that Fiji is on the path of fiscal repair.”
“25 per cent of the Government budgets will go towards serving debt. To pay debt, one needs a balanced or surplus, not a budget deficit.”
Kumar added that the Minister for Finance is good at hoodwinking.
She also highlighted that the national budget is a disadvantaged to the poor, working and middle-income families, MSMEs farmers and tourists.
Kumar said Fijians should brace themselves for an increase in the price of everything – Fijians should be ready to pay more for the over the counter medicines.
“If consumers are thinking that they are not affected by an increase in corporate tax, then they are naïve. An increase in corporate tax will be passed on to consumers through price increases, as businesses will always protect their profit,” she added.