Fiji Opposition MP Decries Change To Dates Of Fiscal Year

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Justification given by AG ‘Defy logic’: Prasad

By Reginald Chandar

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, March 29, 2016) – Government’s decision to change the annual financial year to August 1-July 31 is deceptive and illogical, says NFP Leader and Shadow Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad.

Professor Prasad said the reasons for the change as announced by the Attorney General and Minister for Finance, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum defy logic in an effort to convince the people of the need to change the financial year.

"On 10th March he spoke of re-aligning the Budget, which was and is the logical thing to do. Three weeks later, he has changed his tune."

"The most nonsensical reasons are that FRCA (Fiji Revenue & Customs Authority) received late payment of taxes on 31st December around 4.30pm and that in December most officers are on holiday or in holiday mode! This is insulting the honesty, efficiency and hard work of our public servants, especially those tasked with the responsibility of implementing fiscal policies outlined in every annual national budget."

"If the financial year ends on July 31 and FRCA once again receives a substantial amount in tax revenue late on that day, does this mean that the financial year will once again be changed? Or for that matter another natural disaster or severe cyclone hits Fiji, will there be another change to Government’s Financial Year?."

"The fact is that the current financial year has been the standard since our Independent history for the last 45 years. We have had more than our fair share of natural disasters. But financial years were not changed."

"Instead we had Mini Budgets or virement of funds from different budgetary Heads as approved by Parliament.

Or in most severe cases parliamentary approval was sought to raise loans to meet the costs of unbudgeted expenditure."

"When the NFP moved amendments to increase the Disaster Mitigation Fund allocation in the 2016 Budget from $1 million to $10 million and to increase the grant for cane replanting programme from $5 million to $10 million, Government and the Finance Minister rejected these amendments saying when the need arose, funds could be sourced through virement from Head 50, which is Miscellaneous. We have been once again vindicated."

He said that NFP believes in the absence of a good budget process, which should include making public quarterly and six-monthly financial statements assessing our financial performance for every sector, there is no need to change the financial year.

"It will only mask the reality – the unsustainability of a deceptive budget and under-performing sectors."

"The best option that we have been advocating is for Government to introduce a Mini Budget to re-prioritize expenditure towards rehabilitation."

"A starting point is to slash the inflated budgets of our military and peacekeeping and instead demand the United Nations to repay all outstanding amounts to fund this; reduce the budget of Fiji Roads Authority which is currently over $600 million, slash the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation public service broadcast grant of over $11 million; as well as re-direct marketing and hosting expenses of $9 million allocated for the international golf tournament, over $6 million for a one-off Super Rugby match and $18 million to Fiji Airways to promote its Singapore route."

Professor Prasad added that they will be supporting these measures in Parliament which must be done through a Mini Budget and not by changing the financial year.

The new budget will be presented to Parliament in July for debate and endorsement.

Projects in the current budget that are yet to be completed will be transferred to the August 01 financial year.

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