28 Nov 2002

Fiji parliament passes 2003 budget

7:24 am on 28 November 2002

Fiji's House of Representatives has passed the government's 2003 national budget strictly along party lines.

While all 39 governing coalition members present voted for the budget, the Fiji Labour Party and two opposition members mounted 29 votes against it.

Three MPs were absent.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and the finance minister, Ratu Jone Kubuabola, vigorously defended the budget, saying there are limited alternatives when a government has to raise revenue.

Mr Qarase also warned that if the sugar industry restructure is not implemented and the upgrading of mills does not begin by next March, then there was little or no point in continuing with the industry.

He said current employees of the Fiji Sugar Corporation would be transferred to independent companies on their current terms and conditions but added that there would be social costs as many would also have to find new employment.