‘Government borrowing for politics, not economics’

National Federation leader and Opposition MP, Professor Biman Prasad during break between session in Parliament on Thursday, April 07, 2022. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Government has been borrowing for politics, not economics, claims National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad.

Responding to the comments made by the Economy Ministry permanent secretary Shiri Gounder about borrowing close to $900 million at very low-interest rates during the COVID-19 crisis, Prof Prasad claimed the Bainimarama and FijiFirst government had borrowed more than $6 billion during their 15 years of rule, escalating national debt to over $9 billion.

“There is no lasting economic benefit achieved in the past 15 years that will benefit our future generations,” he said.

“The only legacy of this Government is leaving behind a debt-riddled nation where every Fijian is burdened with approximately $10,000 debt.

“Mr Gounder said Fiji had borrowed $900 million dollars at very low-interest rates and seems to say, like the Economy Minister, that this is all fine, but it is not.

“Low-interest rates or otherwise, debt is still debt.

“The Government has also guaranteed the borrowings of companies like FSC and Fiji Airways and other government entities. There is another $1.1 billion there.

“Added together, the Government’s borrowings are close to 100 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). This is dangerously high.

“It means that for the first time, the people who lend to us will be worrying about whether or not the Government can pay back the debt.”

Professor Prasad said the Government had been borrowing just to pay for its ordinary running costs.

“This is like mortgaging your house just so you can pay your living expenses.

“You may live well now, and boast to others that you live well, but if you cannot pay back your housing loan, you will lose your house.”

He said the Government had been borrowing so that it could boast that there was economic growth, but the growth had not been real.

“It has been fuelled by debt and this is not sustainable.

“What the Government is not talking about is the investment we need to grow our economy and improve incomes and this will be our biggest economic challenge in the next 10 years because we still have to borrow money.

“And there is no room left for us to borrow.”

He said Fiji would have to borrow in the future to invest in infrastructure, but the FijiFirst Government had left Fiji so far in debt that it would struggle to borrow more money to invest in the economy.

“The Government never talks about this.

“It continues to borrow and borrow, just to pay its running costs. “And this is the trend we must stop.

“For 15 years, the FijiFirst Government has been only interested in looking good for politics.

“It has failed to invest in critical areas like education, health and utilities.

“That is why life is so hard for ordinary people now. “This must change and this will not change until there is a new government.

” Questions sent to the Attorney-General and Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum remained unanswered when this edition went to press.

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