Thinking … Not Sleeping: Critical but Helpful Ideas on How to Take Fiji Forward
Parts 1–6. Running a Government with Bad Advice
Continued from yesterdaySorry Croz, This is a bit long but started last night and kept going. In parts so I can post. Publish if you think it will be of interest.
1. The military completely underestimated how hard it would be to run government.
In the early days after the coup I joined a meeting with the new PM and his military council talking to business. They seemed genuine in wanting ideas on what they could do to fix various things. What became very clear though was they had absolutely no idea about even the most basic principles of business or economics. I am talking absolutely no idea. The complete naivety scared me even more than their guns.
2. Early on the new FB government took on a lot of bad advice
I saw their naivety as a concern but others saw it as opportunity. An opportunity to get back at competitors, an opportunity to push personal issues, an opportunity to get advisory jobs. Many of the early mistakes of this government were because they took poor advice. Even their choice of finance minister was terrible. The first thing Mahen did was target those he perceived had hurt him in the past. His policies where disastrous – tax on water, attacks on the tourism industry, an increase in all investment fees, remittance taxes on profits. You can’t pretend to be pro-business and have a anti-business finance minister. It was Fiji Water's decision to close their factory (for just one day) that finished Mahen. The corruption charges like many other things could be brushed away.
3. Most ‘good decisions’ now are a reversal of poor decisions earlier
It was Fiji Water that perhaps the most brought home the message to government. They took the bold step of closing their factory. Only for a day but it was enough to shake the living day lights out of them. Most of the perceived ‘good decisions’ this government has made recently are actually reversing the poor decisions made early on. Mahen is now gone, sensible water tax agreed, remittance tax gone…after stinging the corporate world for two to three years worth.
4. Now they take little advice
The downside of taking on board poor advice early is that government now listens to very few. They are suspicious of everyone. There are a couple of exceptions. The AG of course and more recently the new Reserve Bank governor. The former is skilled in debating and speaking. The later has told the government what they want to hear. The new RBG governor actually came to power by promising to get things done but most importantly to start putting a positive spin on events, numbers. The way the military saw it, the RBF should be ‘spruiking the economy’. Thankfully recently they seem also to be listening to the IMF.
5. We can’t blame them for everything
We can’t blame them for the cyclone or the world economic crisis. We can’t blame them for the poor decisions of governments past. We can’t even blame them for poor FNPF investment decisions. We can’t blame them for the poor performance of the public sector. We can’t blame them for the world changes in the tourism sector.
6. But they should acknowledge...
Their coup (just like previous ones) had a devastating and immediate negative impact on the economy. Their immediate response to the coup under finance minister Chaudhry made things worse, not better. They have done little to restore investor confidence.
They have made many wrong decisions. FNPF is not all there fault but they did appoint all the board members who completed Natadola way way over budget. They sacked them later.
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Continued tomorrrow ...