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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 20, 2000 – USP Journalism/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji Islands civil servants may have their pay cut by 12.5 percent starting next month, the Fiji Times reported today.

A Finance Ministry memorandum this week advised the Information Technology Centre, which processes salaries, of a 12.5 percent pay cut across the board effective August 1.

The move is part of wide-ranging public sector moves to regulate an "unprecedented" 15 percent contraction in the economy.

It affects about 17,000 civil servants, including the disciplined forces, nurses, doctors and teachers.

A letter by Anare Jale, secretary to the Public Service, says the impact of the crisis on real gross domestic product was "two and a half times worse than in 1987," when then Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka staged his two coups.

"The effect of the crisis will be felt in all areas of the economy and 7,000 jobs have already been lost, with predictions of as high as 20,000 if certain scenarios are realized," he was quoted by the Fiji Times as saying.

Last night, public sector union officials were disappointed with the pay cut directive, saying they were under the impression that negotiations were still under way.

The Fiji Times appealed in an editorial today for the interim president and prime minister not to cave in to demands by the rebels led by George Speight who yesterday left Parliament and set up camp in Kalabu Fijian School near Suva.

The rebels burned vehicles, damaged the parliamentary chambers and trashed the compound in retaliation to the cabinet swearing-in ceremony, which was called off.

The rebels were angry that just two of Speight's key supporters were named in the cabinet line-up - both as assistant ministers.

The Fiji Times said interim President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, Vice President Ratu Jope Seniloli and Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase now faced their first big test over Speight's further demands about cabinet representation.

"The people expect their leaders to lead and demonstrate, by their actions, true leadership. After all, the leaders are the ones who have been chosen to run the country," the paper said.

"Now is not the time for our leaders to shirk their responsibilities and cave in."

Qarase reportedly refused to formally meet Speight face-to-face in a brief encounter, saying that a meeting "in the same room is against my principles."

Meanwhile, officials said Constitution Day on July 24 would still be celebrated as a public holiday in spite of the 1997 constitution having been abrogated after the May 19 insurrection.

Title -- 2847 FIJI: Civil servants face 12.5% pay cut Date -- 20 July 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Pasifik Nius, USP, 20/7/00 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Unabridged

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