Budget Debate: Fijians Express Disappointment

The Coalition Government’s 2024-2025 Budget has been criticized for lacking innovative measures to address the high cost of living, pushing ordinary Fijians further into poverty. Opposition MP Hem Chand voiced these concerns during the budget debate in Parliament on Monday.

“In the last five to six days, I have met farmers, teachers, market vendors, factory workers, taxi drivers, people living in rural and very remote areas, residents of outer islands, and many other groups,” Mr. Chand said.

“All have expressed their disappointment with the 2024-2025 budget and are concerned over the rising food costs. Many share the same concerns that this budget unfairly punishes the poor, causing more hardships for families. They also fear an increase in street kids and rising poverty levels as a result.”

Chand highlighted that the 15 percent VAT imposed in the last budget remains unchanged and significantly impacts Fijians’ livelihoods.

“This decision directly affects the bread-and-butter issues of Fijians. The Government has shown a blatant disregard for the cost of living issues they promised to address during the election campaign. The increase in the VAT rate from 9 percent to 15 percent last year has dampened consumer demand as the rising cost of living continues to burden our citizens. It is having a devastating effect on the poorest in our community.”

Chand pointed out that Fijians are having to dig deeper into their pockets to make ends meet. “Many have the desire to buy essentials but lack the ability to do so.”

He urged the Coalition Government to seek alternative ways of raising revenue and growing the economy. “They should stop extracting more revenue from the weakest in society. The Coalition Government should come up with new initiatives for growing the economy rather than punishing poor Fijians with heavy VAT and corporate tax. This is an indication that the Coalition Government lacks critical thinking, creativity, and originality, merely rewording the successful policies designed and successfully implemented by the previous government.”

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