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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 22) – Two political parties say although the size of the Fiji Cabinet is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, the cost on taxpayers should be kept in mind.

Laisenia Qarase said on Saturday he would increase the size of Cabinet from the initial 17 he had earlier wanted.

National Federation Party president Raman Pratap Singh said the party felt the size of Cabinet shouldn't be too large.

"The party feels the size of Cabinet shouldn't be large because of the burden it would have on the taxpayer," said Mr. Singh.

He said the party was instrumental in bringing about the multi-party provision in the Constitution but if Mr. Qarase increased the size of Cabinet, the allocation to the Fiji Labour Party would have to be increased as well.

National Alliance Party president Ratu Epeli Ganilau said the size of Cabinet was the prerogative of the Prime Minister.

"That's his prerogative because he determines the size of Cabinet but he should bear the cost in mind, in terms of the economic situation," said Ratu Epeli.

He said the prime minister became more answerable to the people when he had a large Cabinet.

Secretary General to Parliament Mary Chapman said she couldn't give the total salary figures of all the ministers in Cabinet ministers in the previous government.

However, she said each Cabinet minister received a salary of about FJ$45,000 [US$26,200] and added to that was the parliamentary salary of FJ$25,000 to FJ$29,000 [US$14,500 to US$16,900].

"That would bring the salary of a cabinet minister to about FJ$70,000 [US$40,800] but they receive less than the ministry chief executives," said Ms Chapman. The last government had 20 cabinet ministers excluding the prime minister and that would have cost about FJ$1.4million [US$817,460] in salaries per year.

On Saturday, Mr. Qarase said he hadn't worked out how much the extra Cabinet portfolios would cost government.

Yesterday, Mr. Qarase confirmed that Qoriniasi Bale would be included in Cabinet via the Senate and would remain Attorney General.

He said two other members may be co-opted into Cabinet via the Upper House.

Mr. Qarase said he was not happy with the 10 Cabinet posts he had reserved for his Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party members after pledging seven to the Fiji Labor Party.

May 23, 2006

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