25 May 2006

Fiji's PM defends cost of new government

7:13 am on 25 May 2006

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has defended the cost of his new government of 24 cabinet ministers and 12 ministers of state, the biggest in the country's history.

It's been estimated that the ministerial salary bill alone for the 36 will come to nearly two million US dollars but this is expected to double when their entitlements to official cars and drivers, support staff, housing, business class air travel and other perks are included.

Laisenia Qarase says the public must see the cost as an investment in the human capital of the country because young people are being brought into leadership roles.

The Daily Post quotes Mr Qarase as saying it is important to give young people ministerial responsibilities so they get the leadership experience to replace those who will be retiring in future.

Mr Qarase says the Labour Party should not be blamed for the extra cost of the cabinet because they are fulfilling the multi-party requirements of the constitution.