FijiFirst Acting General Secretary Faiyaz Koya (left), Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad
Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad has voiced disagreement with the Acting General Secretary of the FijiFirst Party’s claims that the taxation policies of the Coalition government have negatively impacted the tourism industry.
Prasad’s comments is in response to a statement from FijiFirst Acting General Secretary Faiyaz Koya who asserted that the recent Reserve Bank of Fiji announcement on the economy signals a concerning trajectory for Fiji.
Koya claimed that they had previously warned the Coalition government about these issues during last year’s budget debates.
The RBF Governor stated earlier this week that the Fijian economy is expected to decelerate this year, citing a reduction in substantial growth in tourism and consumption.
Koya acknowledged the record tourist arrivals and remittances attributing it to FijiFirst’s post-COVID recovery plan.
However, he criticized the government’s decisions to raise VAT to 15 per cent and increase the Airport Departure Tax from $125 to $140, arguing that these moves have made Fiji overly expensive in the global tourism market.
According to Koya, the government falsely claimed these increases were necessary to pay off the national debt, while in reality, Fijians both local businesses and consumers are struggling under the economic burden.
He also claims that overseas investors lack confidence in the economy due to these policies.
In response, Professor Prasad affirmed the RBF’s assessment but clarified that a return to the trend growth rate of around three per cent doesn’t imply economic contraction as suggested by Koya.
Prasad accused Koya of selectively presenting facts from the RBF statement.
He emphasized the robust economic rebound over the last two years, reaching pre-pandemic levels faster than anticipated.
The Finance Minister blamed the previous FijiFirst government for three years of economic contraction, attributing it to COVID and the government’s mismanagement, inability to diversify the economy and overspending that resulted in over $9 billion in debt.
Reserve Bank of Fiji
Prasad challenged Koya’s claims highlighting the credit given to tourism stakeholders for the impressive recovery rather than FijiFirst.
Regarding the departure tax increase, Prasad corrected Koya noting that during their time, the departure tax was $200 with an additional 25 percent tax while now it is $140 with a 15 percent VAT making it more competitive.
Prasad dismissed claims that the government is making the tourism industry uncompetitive.
He further stated that over the past 16 years, FijiFirst has consistently demonstrated a pattern of claiming credit during favourable circumstances and placing blame on others when situations do not align in their favour.
The Minister says that the Coalition government is committed to collaborating with the private sector and other stakeholders to tackle prevailing challenges.
Prasad also emphasized the government’s proactive approach in eliminating identified bottlenecks through stakeholder dialogue.
He also noted investments indicated by Investment Fiji stating that it is gaining momentum and is expected to make significant contributions to Fiji’s overall economic growth.