Is the Government Really Responsible?

Opposition Member of Parliament Rinesh Sharma has raised concerns about the government’s approach to budget consultations and financial management.

During his budget response in parliament, Sharma criticized the budget consultation process, describing it as too formal and not extensive enough.

“The so-called people’s government, Mr. Speaker sir, accepts submissions for the budget, but the Minister for Finance did not conduct a nationwide budget public consultation. He did not hear the voices of the public, Mr. Speaker sir. Is this a responsible government?” he said.

Sharma pointed out that Fiji’s GDP grew in 2022 and that the Coalition government inherited a strong economic position. He questioned why the government would borrow more money when taxes have already been increased. “Mr. Speaker sir, debt is up to $10.9 billion, debt to GDP Ratio is $77.8 million, but the price of bread has gone up, VAT is imposed on butter. It’s a bread-and-butter issue. Is this a responsible government?” he added.

Addressing the coalition ministers from SODELPA and PAP, Sharma warned that they would have to defend the current economic policies in the next election.

Sharma also highlighted the hardships faced by ordinary Fijians due to increased taxes. “The cost of zero-rated items is 22, and for this budget, it is expected to go up to 30. The Honorable Finance Minister believes in raising taxes to increase government income and has labeled the government as responsible. VAT has increased from 9 to 15 percent, and corporate tax has increased to 25 percent. Is this a responsible government?” Sharma said.

He further criticized the reduction in the threshold from $2,000 to $1,000, making a 15 percent VAT applicable. “Is this a responsible government?” he questioned.

Sharma concluded by criticizing the government’s large size and operating expenses. “This is a big government. Everyone is a minister and assistant minister with huge operating expenses. Is this a responsible government?” he said.

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