There are positive indicators that the economy is definitely on the mend in the short span of 15-18 months compared to the highly precarious state it was in when we took over from the Qarase Government, says Mahendra Chaudhry.
The Interim Government is aware of what has been fundamentally wrong with the economy for almost two decades and has adopted sound fiscal and financial management policies to address these,” said the Minister of Finance, National Planning, Sugar Industry and Public Utilities.
“It should not be forgotten that we inherited an economy in dire trouble and very vulnerable to adverse global pressures.
“Although government has now put in place firm policy directives and positive measures to address these fundamental wrongs that have taken root over almost two decades of mismanagement and misrule, results cannot be achieved overnight,” Mr Chaudhry said in clarification of comments made by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Savenaca Narube.
Fiji’s Foreign Reserves have stabilised, government’s debt levels have declined to 47% of the GDP from a high of 52% under the SDL, and the Budget deficit has been contained at less than 2% of the GDP from a high of 5.5%. Interest rates have declined substantially from 14-15% to around 7%.
“These are real achievements based on tight control of government expenditure and firm policy directions which show that the interim government is clearly action-oriented and not just talk,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Fiji’s exports are definitely on the way up after six years of serious decline. The first quarter of 2008 shows total domestic exports rising to $198m from $162 million for the same period in 2007.
Decline in the sugar industry has also been arrested with a highly focussed strategy of achieving 4.3 million tonnes of cane by 2010. Definite action has been adopted on the ground to achieve this target and government has taken positive steps to make sufficient land available for the target to be attained.
Tourism which suffered a setback after the events of 2006 is headed for a 10% growth this year.
Agriculture is one area that needs more attention but considering that this sector has been grossly neglected since 1987, it will take time for government policies to show results.
However, government is committed to pushing agricultural growth to increase domestic production of food and grains, as a means of enhancing rural development and to raise the incomes and living standards of people in the rural sector.
“We have made special financial allocations to push government’s Northern Development Programme in order to revitalise its economy and repopulate the North decimated by the Qarase government’s land policy.
Government strategies and policy direction for growth for 2008-2010 are very clearly chartered in SEEDS (Sustainable Economic Empowerment Development Strategies) and we are actively focused on achieving this.
“We are working with various government agencies including the Reserve Bank to meet these national targets,” Mr Chaudhry said.