23 Nov 2012

Fiji budget labelled as innovative, interim leader says they are reaching out to the poor

3:54 pm on 23 November 2012

The Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation has described the interim government's budget as innovative and a plan that will stimulate economic development.

The prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama delivered the deficit budget yesterday.

It includes a 32 percent lift in capital expenditure with a significant portion going to roading.

The chief executive Nesbitt Hazelman, says the Federation has been pushing for an improved infrastructure, to make the transporting of goods and services more efficient and cutting the costs of vehicle maintenance.

He says they also like the plan to open up the region from Korovou to Tavua in Viti Levu, as a tax free zone for agriculture projects.

"Which will encourage not only economic activity in that area but it will also encourage or stem the rural to urban drift and contain people in that area in terms of providing jobs for that particular area of Fiji."

Nesbitt Hazelman believes the flow on effects from greater investment will negate the short-term hit of having an increase in the deficit.

Commodore Bainimarama says his government has designed a budget to relieve poverty and create equal opportunities.

He says the 2013 budget is one of the biggest spending programmes in Fiji's history.

More money has been earmarked for families in need, the elderly, education, and on housing.

The government has raised the tax threshold so that people earning less than 9,000 US dollars annually won't have to pay any tax.

Mr Bainimarama rejected claims that the government is not doing enough to help the poor.

This budget provides for a complete restructuring of the social welfare system in Fiji. The very poor will get the most assistance which is how it should be. In the past only three percent of low income families qualified for assistance, now 10 percent of families will be covered by our social welfare programme.

Mr Bainimarama says money is also being invested to create more jobs so people can provide for themselves.