FIJI ANNOUNCES AUSTERITY $831 MILLION BUDGET

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, March 2) – Fiji's Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has announced a revised budget of FJ$1.379 billion [US$831 million] for 2007.

Chaudhry said the budget would be tough given the "extremely dire" state of the economy.

He said he was forced to stand before the nation and had the unenviable task of tackling the financial and economic challenges that have been with us for a long time.

According to Chaudhry, the challenges were neglected for six years because of poor financial management and governance.

He admitted that the revised budget would come as a bitter pill to swallow for many people but he was left with no choice.

"We are at a juncture where we either sink or swim as a nation. I intend to make sure that we swim.To do this we will have to make some sacrifices.We will need to address these challenges now," Chaudhry said.

He warned that if left to continue, these challenges would spell doom for the country and economy.

"This has been the result of irresponsible spending, high borrowing, wastage, inefficiency and rising corruption.Compounded by leakages in taxes and inadequate compliance."

Chaudhry said basically we were"indulging in a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget."

He said the interim administration will introduce measures immediately to raise foreign reserves and exports and change policies of the previous government that were anti-poor.

Chaudhry appealed for support from all sectors as the adjustments sought by the interim regime would carry costs.

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