INTERIM GOVERNMENT TRIMS 2007 BUDGET BY $138 MILLION

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Mar 3) – Fiji’s revised 2007 Budget is a decrease of FJ$200 million [US$138 million], compared to the FJ$1.7 billion [US$1.2 billion] budget released by the Laisenia Qarase Government last November.

Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry yesterday presented a FJ$1.5 billion [US$1 billion] budget at the Holiday Inn, in Suva.

Much of the reduction came from a cut in allocations for the 16 government ministries, and, a five per cent pay cut for civil servants.

In his Budget address, titled Securing Financial and Economic Stability, Mr Chaudhry outlined the three objectives of the revised Budget.

"First, it ensures that government finances are protected and stabilised," Mr Chaudhry said. "Second, it ensures that government resources are redirected to productive areas that will contribute to a quick recovery of our economy. Third, it lays down a solid platform for fiscal and economic sustainability through responsible management and building exports in the medium to long term. 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 challenges now. If we leave these to continue they will spell doom for the country and our economy," Mr Chaudhry said.

He said the gross domestic product was expected to drop by 2.5 per cent while growth for next year was forecast at 2 per cent.

According to the November Budget supplement, the domestic economy was forecast to grow by 2 per cent.

Growth in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, mining and quarrying, manufacturing, electricity and water, transport and communications and finance, insurance and real estate, was expected to contribute to this growth.

Interestingly, the security forces have had their budget allocations cut.

The military is faced with a FJ$5.2 million cut [US$3.1 million], while the Fiji Police Force received a cut of FJ$7.7 million [US$4.6 million].

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