19 Nov 2002

Fiji government bans overseas travel to ensure budget is passed

5:47 am on 19 November 2002

The Fiji government has banned overseas travel by cabinet ministers and backbenchers until the 2003 budget is passed by parliament.

Radio Fiji says the directive came from the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, at the start of a three-week debate on the budget in the House of Representatives.

Opening the debate, the opposotion leader, Mick Beddoes, described the budget as one full of hollow words that do not address law and order and poverty issues.

Mr Beddoes raised particular concern about the government's increasing reliance on borrowing from the Fiji National Provident Fund to pay for its debts and deficits.

He has questioned why more than 70 percent of the fund's assets bave been lent to only borrower - that is the government.

Mr Beddoes says at the current rate of borrowing, the government will use up about 1-point-2 billion US dollars of the fund's total assets of 1-point-4 billion in the near future.