FIJI MILITARY GOVERNMENT FOCUSES ON SAVING ECONOMY

SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 9, 2000 - FM96, Radio Fiji, Fiji's Daily Post, The Fiji Times /PINA Nius Online)---The Interim Military Government (IMG) has put in place immediate short and medium term measures to cope with the bleak future Fiji faces because of international sanctions while the hostages continue to be held at Parliament, FM96 reports.

The Republic of Fiji Military Forces says in the short term to protect foreign exchange reserves there will be tighter control over capital, credit ceilings and interest rates. As well there will be tough government policies to reduce spending to essentials in order to stabilize the budget, FM96 said.

In the medium term, it says it will increase the budget for marketing tourism and will communicate directly with major investors.

FM96 says the Interim Military Government will also consider major investment projects for improving the tourism infrastructure. Meanwhile the Interim Military government also said the Fiji Visitors Bureau and the Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau (FTIB) will play a large role in maintaining investment initiatives, projects in progress, and rescue the tourism industry from further deterioration.

These measure were consider by the government's Macro-Finance Management Unit at a meeting with the head of the military government, Commodore Frank Bainimarama. FM96 said a number of bleak predictions were made if trade sanctions are imposed because of the ongoing crisis.

* Trade embargoes would cause the GDP to fall by 13%, meaning a loss of over FJ$ 400 million to the economy.

* If there was a sugar harvest boycott, that figure would soar to a 22% drop in the GDP, which would increase the deceit another FJ$ 200 million

* Government revenue will fall by FJ$ 200 million resulting in huge spending cuts, job losses, and a drop in services to the public.

* Exports would to suffer a 22% fall and imports a 20% drop.

* Import prices would rise driving inflation up by at least 5%

* Unemployment would increase by 6% or some 7,000 people losing their jobs. That unemployment figure would soar to 20% if the boycott hits the garment industry, the largest employer in the country, making matters even worse.

Commodore Bainimarama appealed to the public for a concerted national effort by all of to stop further deterioration of the economy and divisions in society.

As the Fiji crisis headed towards entering its fourth week, attempted coup leader George Speight and his armed indigenous Fijian supporters continued to control the parliamentary complex in suburban Suva. They still hold hostage the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and an estimated 30 parliamentarians.

The Fiji Times reported all schools will resume classes on Tuesday, after being closed since the coup attempt and looting and arson in Suva which followed. The Ministry of Education announced a schedule under which schools near the parliamentary complex will share classrooms with other schools. These host schools will operate in separate morning and afternoon shifts.

Some of Suva's biggest schools are near the parliamentary complex, including Suva Grammar School, Draiba Fijian School, Veiuto Primary School, Cathedral Secondary School and Stella Maris primary school.

Fiji's Daily Post reported supporters of Suva businessman Speight yesterday beat up a policeman outside Parliament. The policeman, a detective constable, was later held captive by Mr. Speight's supporters for about half an hour. The army's Quick Reaction Force negotiated his release.

He is recovering from injuries he suffered in the beating, the Daily Post said. The 27-year-old detective was at Parliament yesterday to seize a taxi hijacked by Mr. Speight's supporters, many of whom have been there since the May 19 coup attempt.

Police spokesperson Inspector Sera Bernard told the Daily Post police had struck an agreement with Mr. Speight's security people for the release of all stolen goods.

Inspector Bernard said the policeman has been treated and put under police protection. The Daily Post said when contacted about the incident, Mr. Speight denied anyone was hurt. "Come on, why are you guys trying to portray me to be a villain. I am not, no one was hurt here," he said.

The Daily Post quoted one of the policeman's sisters as saying: "How can George Speight lie about no one being hurt?" she said. "This man is a liar. I hope the Fijian people see him for what he really is. He is no savior. He is more an angel of death. God help those who believe him.

"One policeman is dead, two soldiers were shot, one security officer died of a heart attack and now my brother was bashed by these thugs," she said. "All these people are Fijians. If he can't even protect the people he professes to be fighting for, then I'm sorry this man must be exposed for what he is."

Fiji's Daily Post also reported 500 workers of United Apparel staged a "silent protest" against the Fiji Trade Union Congress' stand to slap a black ban in protest opposing the current political crisis, yesterday. Two United staff, Letila Rosa and Bobby Sharma, organized the protest with the blessing from their boss Ramesh Solanki after work, yesterday.

The Daily Post said they criticized the Congress' hard-line stand. Apparel boss Ramesh Solanki confirmed that 100 workers had been laid off. Mr. Sharma said should Congress continue to urge trade sanctions against Fiji, grassroots people would suffer first and the most.

Radio Fiji reported a visit by members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has been delayed a week, at the request of the interim military government.

It reported that the military forces wanted more time to prepare for the visit and for discussions with the visiting foreign ministers.

The Ministerial Action Group this week suspended Fiji from Commonwealth meetings and decision-making but stopped short of heavier sanctions.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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