Leader of Opposition and Shadow Minister for Economy has called for immediate removal of Attorney General Aiyaz Saiyed Khaiyum as the Minister of Economy, for inflating revenue figures.
“The Prime Minister should immediately remove the Minister for Economy because he has manipulated and misled the people of Fiji let alone this august house. Given his track record of inflating revenue figures and undermining capital expenditure by using the RIE provision,” he said.
Mr Rabuka made these comments during his 2019-20 budget address.
He said that by inflating the revenue figures, the Minister for Economy is clearly trying to reduce the deficit to make the budget look good, but the reality is the opposite.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, this is a deliberate move by the Minister for Economy to mislead the people. Common sense Mr. Speaker Sir, clearly indicated that it will take at least 2 ½ to 3 years before a sale of government asset can be realized, if it is undertaken in a transparent and accountable manner,” he added.
Meanwhile the revenue for the Fijian Government has continued to grow since Fiji First moved into power after 2014 democratic general elections.
As a percentage of GDP, total revenue increased from $1.42 billion in 2014 (23.7%) and is estimated to increase to $3.49 billion in 2019/2020. This is an increase of 27.5% while total expenditure in 2014 was 27.6% ($1.64 billion) of GDP.
While Mr Rabuka believes that infact revenue has increased, he is little skeptic that margin of error is too significant and I believe it is intentional to inflate revenue figures, to reduce the deficit.
“On the revenue side Mr. Speaker Sir, it is interesting to note that actual revenue increased from $2.38 billion in 2014 to $3.23 billion in 2018/2019 financial year, and anticipated to increase to $3.49 billion in the 2019/2020, an increase of 8%. Based on the current scenario, expenditure will be reduced by 17% and revenue will increase by 8%,” he said.
Despite the increase in revenue he says that he is not confident and cannot trust the estimated net deficit as 2.7% of GDP in the 2019/2020 Budget Estimates, and he believes it is grossly underestimated because there is a lot of inconsistency in the budget estimate and the budget supplementary.