By Samisoni Pareti
Fiji’s minister for economy Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum handed down the country’s 2019-2020 national budget tonight that is big in environmental protection, and thrusting the economy further into the digital age.
A complete ban on single use plastic will come into force on January 2020, and the ban against Styrofoam containers kicks in one year later in 2021.
In its pursuit of a blue economy, the Bainimarama Government will also ban sea-bed mining in its waters, and will promote marine parks instead.
The new financial year will also see most government services easily accessed online, including the online registration of new-born babies from the country’s main hospitals.
Assistance will be offered to small to medium enterprises to offer online payment of their services or products and employers will also be mandated to phase out cash payment of wages.
A national ID card initiative will also be pursued during the new year, and the cost of the internet plus mobile phone calls should become cheaper.
For the first time in the history of government finances, Sayed Khaiyum said next year’s budget is projecting a revenue of F$3.84 billion. Expenditures on the other hand are projected at F$3.491 billion, giving a deficit that is 2.7% of the country’s GDP.
Government debt is also projected to drop to around 47% of GDP during the new financial year.
This is despite the announcement that the Fiji Government would borrow US$200m from the World Bank in the coming year, as well as another loan from multiple sources that included among others the Asian Development Bank and the Australian Government for flood protection measures in Nadi town.
He confirmed that in this 2019-2020 budget, there would be no increases in Value Added Tax, Corporate Tax or Income Tax. Duty on tobacco and alcohol also remain unchanged.
Unlike previous years, Minister Sayed Khaiyum did not read out budget allocations for government ministries, except to say that for Tourism Fiji, its marketing budget of F$29.7m stays the same.
Allocation for road upgrades through the Fiji Roads Authority is F$399m, and for Water Authority of Fiji together with the Ministry of Waterways get a combined budget of F$192m.
There have been changes made to their free milk initiative and free bus fares for students, and the introduction of a national cadet service for those wanting to work in the civil service.