Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has promised prudent fiscal management with heavy investment in infrastructure to help the economy register higher levels of growth in the New Year.
Addressing a public meeting attended by his Cabinet colleagues, Government officials, diplomats and businesspersons in Suva, he said that Budget 2014 will target a number of core sectors of the economy including health, electricity, water, road works and other public utility services.
Described as ‘People’s Friendly Budget,’ Mr Bainimarama, who is also Fiji’s Finance Minister, has provided $541 million for education, stating that it would be single largest investment in the country’s history, accounting for 19% of the financial outlay for the year.
“2014 will be marked as the year in which we embarked on an education revolution to better equip all our young people for their future and build a Fiji that is not just smarter, but as a country that provides every young person with increased opportunities. It will be a nation in which no young person seeking knowledge, skills and training is left behind because of economic disadvantage, a nation in which poverty is no barrier to learning,” he said, presenting his Budget at the gathering.
His expansionary budget will have a gross deficit of F$385.43 million, accounting for 1.9% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Total Revenue, estimated at F$2.72 billion, is about F$ 0.61 billion more than the previous year’s budgeted total revenue of about F$ 2.11 billion.
Total estimated expenditure for 2014 is F$ 2.88 billion (up from the previous year’s provision of F$0.56 billion).
Nominal GDP has been projected at about F$8.3 billion (up from about F$7.74 billion in 2013).
The estimated net deficit as a percentage of GDP represents a decrease in the 2013 estimate of 2.6%.
Encouraged by increasing endorsement of his electoral reforms and the international acceptance of his proposed general elections in September 2014 (see separate story in this section) Mr Bainimarama has taken some bold initiatives including floating a Fiji-owned commercial bank.
He made education the most important instrument of progress.
“All Fijians will be encouraged and provided the incentive to embrace learning as a means to improve their own lives and the wellbeing of the nation. Every Fijian will be given the opportunity to pursue excellence and reach for the stars. It is among the boldest investments that we have ever made as a nation, an investment in our young people, their futures, and our future,” he said and promised a ‘radical’ overhaul of the education system, covering primary, secondary and tertiary education.
According to Mr Bainimarama, the Fijian economy grew by 2.2% in 2012 (up from 1.9% in 2011 and 0.1% in 2010) with the expected rate of growth in 2013 and 2014 placed respectively at 3.6% and 3%.
“Budget 2014 will connect thousands of families to water and electricity and increase access to affordable housing. It will also make justice more accessible, help establish strong and independent institutions, as required under the new Constitution,” he said.
Read related stories in this Section and our Editorial, ‘Fiji makes impressive progress’ under Viewlink.