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The most senior civil servant in Fiji’s Ministry of Economy, Makereta Konrote, has resigned from the post.

Konrote’s resignation comes at a critical time, as Fiji’s Minister of Economy remains in Singapore for medical treatment, and economic activity continues to take a battering from COVID-19 related border closures and Tropical Cyclones Yasa and Ana.

Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has been conducting budget consultation sessions over the Internet from Singapore, with the budget due to be delivered mid-year.

The February economic updated released by the Reserve Bank of Fiji this week stated declines in visitor arrivals (-98.5%), electricity (-13.7%) and mahogany (-98.7%), although there were production increases for cement, gold, pine, woodchips and sawn timber.

The Reserve Bank says Value Added Tax (VAT) collections plummeted by 25.2% and new lending by commercial banks for consumption purposes fell by 39.3%. Commercial banks’ new lending for investment declined by 47.2% in January.

The Bank says labour demand remains week, with job vacancies falling by 82.6% in January.

Government recorded a net deficit of $545.8 million (or 5.5% of GDP) in the first six months of the 2020-21 financial year. At the end of January 2021, government debt stood at 73.2% of GDP. 19% of this was external debt.

A government statement today quoted Konrote, who has been at the Ministry for 18 years and PS for five, as saying: “It has been a great privilege to work on behalf of my country. I want young people, particularly young women, who are considering entering the Civil Service to know that it can be a deeply fulfilling career of service to your fellow Fijians.”

“I’m confident that I’m leaving the Ministry in the good hands of dedicated Fijians who are firmly focussed on our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Shiri Gounder, the Head of Fiscal Policy and former Head of Treasury will act as the Permanent Secretary for Economy from 16 March 2020.

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