ECONOMIST KUMAR QUESTIONS GROWTH PREDICTION BY FIJI GOVERNMENT

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 10, 2002 – Radio Australia)---Fiji economist Sunil Kumar has questioned the growth projections of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase’s government.

The University of the South Pacific’s Kumar said the government predicts 4.4-percent growth this year and 5.7-percent next year. But, speaking at the Pacific Update Conference in Canberra, Australia, he said he had serious doubts about the predictions, especially about next year.

The growth rate can't be achieved because there is not enough investment going into the economy, Mr. Kumar said, adding that some of Fiji's key industries, such as sugar and garment manufacturing, face significant problems.

Mr. Kumar said there was a 26 percent decline in sugar output last year because of land tenure problems and that the garment sector is doomed without increased productivity and increased investment.

Mr. Kumar said the Fiji' government's figure for unemployment is 10-percent, but the real figure is closer to 20 percent.

He said there has been a huge exodus of skilled labor because of political instability, with 70,000 people leaving Fiji between 1987 and 2001.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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