Let's Be Honest: Address by the PM

I announced one of the biggest spending programmes in Fiji’s history. We’re providing more money for families in need, for the elderly, for housing, for education, for our police, our prisons and for access to justice for all.

More money for rural communities, for sport and to teach young people new skills. And we’re also putting more money into the hands of many ordinary Fijians by raising the tax threshold – the point where tax kicks in – to $16-thousand a year.

We’re also cutting the price of electricity by five cents a unit so that families don’t have to be so anxious about their power bills.

But there is one item of spending in the 2013 budget that outstrips all others. And I want to explain to Fijian families why it is necessary and what it will mean for us all.

Every Fijian knows how bad our roads are. It isn’t just the time it takes to get anywhere or the punishment our vehicles are receiving.

The dreadful state of our roads is holding the country back. It is hampering our economic development. They must be fixed.

Successive governments have put this in the “too hard basket”. But my government has decided to act. And act decisively.

We are not going to continue to have road crews filling in pot-holes just to have them reappear again every time it rains. We are not going to have corruption and incompetence blocking our path any longer.
We are going to start from scratch and give the whole country the same standard we are seeing on the Kings Road in northern Viti Levu – an international standard.

Roads that boost both the local economy and the national economy. Roads we can all be proud of.

I signed contracts with three overseas companies – all of them from New Zealand – to upgrade our roads using foreign expertise and local workers. Many of these workers are coming from our Department of National Roads. We are insisting that they train Fijian workers in the latest road building skills so that the work can continue when they eventually leave in five year’s time. It isn’t going to be cheap. This year alone, we are going to spend $422 million resurfacing and fixing our roads. Yes, it’s a lot of money. We’re increasing the deficit from 1.9 per cent to 2.8 per cent. But this is not short-term spending for spending’s sake. It is a massive investment in Fiji’s future. And it will pay dividends in terms of the rest of the economy for years to come. It needs to be done and every Fijian knows it.

It WILL be done because my government is determined to deliver.

As your prime minister, there are many things I am proud of in this budget.

These include our $110-million commitment to provide communities with clean water … the health workers we are putting into rural areas … the access to free legal aid that we are giving many Fijians for the first time … and the pay rises we are giving to low income civil servants.  But I’m proudest of all about the investment we are making in our future through our young people.

We have already provided free bus fares so that our children can get to and from school every day. It’s a great pity that some people have abused the system. But for the vast majority of parents, this scheme has been a valuable contribution to making ends meet and it will continue.

We all know that a child’s education begins well before primary school but when it comes to pre-school education, Fiji has lagged behind many other countries. We are providing more money in this budget to build and upgrade kindergartens in rural areas and are also increasing the salary grant for early childhood teachers.

To help fulfill our vision to be a smarter country, we are giving generous tax concessions to individuals and companies willing to donate new computers to schools. They will get a tax deduction of 150 per cent if they spend between $10,000 and $100,000 on computers for urban schools and 200 per cent if the computers are for rural schools.

I am especially proud to be able to provide new scholarships to encourage our young people to become farmers. Fifty Form Six and Form Seven graduates will undertake a 12-month certificate course at the Fiji National University in various farming disciplines.

And at the end of that they be given land and money to buy a house and shed, a tractor and other equipment, plus $2000 to get them started. We are giving these young people a sustainable future while helping to reduce the money Fijians spend on food imports.

Our other big initiative is to spend $5 million in 2013 to provide more than one thousand young people with vocational scholarships to take up specialist trades. At the end of their courses, they’ll become certified plumbers, electricians, mechanics, deckhands and all manner of other trades.

We are not just helping these kids. We are increasing the nation’s skills base. All this is also an investment in the future. These young people carry the hopes of all of us for a smarter, more efficient Fiji.

The other areas I’m especially proud of are the Government’s efforts to relieve poverty and to create equal opportunities for all Fijians.

I reject the claims of some of our critics that we are not doing enough to help the poor. This budget provides for a complete restructuring of the social welfare system in Fiji. The very poor will get the most assistance, which is how it should be. In the past only three per cent of low income families qualified for assistance. Now, ten per cent of families will be covered by our social welfare programme.

We are also continuing the Government policy of writing off loans for people living in public housing. We’re relieving them of the worry of having to pay a debt that they cannot afford. This initiative compliments our decision to forgive the water bills of thousands of Fijian households and institutions.
We’re also providing money to either upgrade squatter settlements or put these people into proper housing. These are all practical measures to assist low-income families.

But I want to stress that this Government believes in hard work, not handouts. We need to create more jobs so that more people get work and provide for themselves and their families.

The global experience shows that you can only do this by creating the conditions for jobs to be created. Government has to provide incentives for people to invest. And so on top of our existing incentives, we are further reducing the corporate tax from 20 per cent to 17 per cent for overseas companies that are prepared to base their headquarters in Fiji. We support business because it is by far the best way to tackle poverty.

Guaranteeing the security of every Fijian is my government’s most important responsibility. So we are spending $8 million more than last year on the police and $3 million more on our prisons.  There is no excuse for the shortcomings in the system that we have all seen in recent weeks. Finally I want to say something to all of you about what we expect from every Fijian as we move towards a return to democracy. We have tackled the corruption that was destroying our national life. Now, I want everyone to think about what we can all do in our personal lives to build a stronger, fairer nation.

The manager of one of our biggest resorts tells me that of all the places he’s worked, Fiji has the highest rate of theft by the staff.

Such a statement shames us all. We need to reaffirm basic standards of honesty, decency and goodness in our homes, schools and workplaces. These standards are not old fashioned. They are timeless and we need to work much harder to uphold them.

Being honest means many things. It means being an honest person and an honest citizen. Our tax rates are among the lowest in the region, lower than Australia and New Zealand. So there is no excuse not to pay your tax.

I’m especially disappointed when I hear about those in the business community not fulfilling their tax obligations or not passing on reductions in duty to their customers. I appeal to everyone:
When you see something you want that isn’t yours, resist the temptation to steal it. Parents, I ask you to set an example for your children that they will eventually pass on to their own kids.

We are building a new Fiji for everyone, a Fiji in which every person is equal. We also want a nation where honesty is valued, where we can leave our doors unlocked again, just like our grandparents did.
And we want a nation in which people are more considerate and caring, where we treat each other more like brothers and sisters in an extended family than strangers.

This is an important part of my vision for the new Fiji and I invite you all to share it.


Let's practice what we preach said…

'PM' says a resort manager tells me that of all the places he’s worked, Fiji has the highest rate of theft by staff. He adds, "such a statement shames us all".

The bloody resort manager needs to be told the resort owners in Fiji are the biggest crooks around, paying their workers peanuts while siphoning off millions in profits offshore.

This is what should shame PM Bainimarama and tourism minister Khaiyum. Instead of scapegoating poor hotel workers, stop the grand theft. The petty thieving will take care of itself.

It's hard for the PM and his tourism minister to empathise with workers, busy as they are enjoying the perks, claiming hefty backpay, rubbing shoulders with the elite, getting drunk on fine wine.

The coup was carried out in the name of the poor - so far it has been in name only. The AG has shamelessly thwarted moves by Kevin Barr for just wages while enjoying a hefty pay increases himself and preaching to the rest of us at every opportunity.

The PM pontificated, "We need to reaffirm basic standards of honesty, decency and goodness...these standards are not old fashioned. They are timeless and we need to work much harder to uphold them. Being honest means being an honest person and an honest citizen".

Being honest means not accumulating and claiming leave pay for 30 years. This is being both greedy and dishonest. Honesty is lacking first and foremost in this regime.

So PM and AG better stop pontificating and start setting an example. Their big and insincere talk is getting nauseating.
Crosbee Le hasbin said…
This human rights abusing coup has totally destroyed Fiji's future. Apart from free trips holidays to Fiji for scumbags like cros and his wife it has achieved nothing... so spin this korvis...
Anonymous said…
so workers steal because they will never be paid enough or they are just too lazy to pay for it and earn it themselves. I do think, looking at Bainimarama having awarded himself hundreds of thousands of dollars in 'back pay' it is bit rich of him of all people, to tell people what they should and shouldn't take.
%$#@! said…
'Lets be honest'!?.... i would love to hear the new and improved explanation for how they have just lost another expatriate, Greg Bullard, in the regime's judiciary, that's even better than the one under Qarase presumably... nothing to see hear eh Croz?
Shazzer Grubby said…
I am very disappointed that you have directly contradicted the PM and it is not what I expect after I paid for you to come to Fiji.

On November 9th you wrote and I quote. “Queen's Road to Suva was no worse than I remembered it. There were pothole in places and lots of patches but Queen's Road and the other roads I saw were nowhere as bad as the anti-government bloggers make out.”

This is in direct contrast to the PM’s views and I quote “Every Fijian knows how bad our roads are. It isn’t just the time it takes to get anywhere or the punishment our vehicles are receiving.

The dreadful state of our roads….”

I am concerned you are trying to portray Commodore Bananas as anti-government blogger.

Sort it out

Anonymous said…
I sent my observations letter to Croz,a week before I mailed it to more than 50 of Fiji's lawyers. He is yet to post it. I hope he does. He can authenticate my responses through my email address,which he has,to prevent bloggers using my name for their posts. Croz told me he was awaiting reponse from the "government"before publishing it. That is fair enough. He need to moderate as he sees fit. He may be able to advocate for change where I have clearly failed, through his unbridled patience and long suffering.

When I read above, "access to justice for all", it makes me cringe. The AG and CJ direct which court each matter goes before. As the judges and lawyers are all under Gates control, the above should read "access to justice (according to the will of Gates) for all (all = those Gates allows).

That is not justice at all.

If the PM does not start to distance himself from the AG and Gates, everyone will know he is just "whistling dixe". Does he want to do that? That is the $64 question. Time is evaporating. He will be applauded by all if he can bring the AG and Gates to account.

Greg Bullard
Bollocks from Bullard said…
Greg, I assume its those "universal voices" that are guiding you in your campaign against the AG and CJ? You have left a trail of people in Fiji shaking their heads at your antics in the short time you spent here. You need help, mate, so why not concentrate your energies in getting it rather than rattling a cage that you should justly be locked up in. If the justice system in Fiji is so bad, why on earth did you spend so much time while you were here struggling to climb the greasy poll? Demanding to be this and that when you're a mere magistrate didn't cut it with us locals.The days of the Great White God just because of the colour of your skin are over. Best to surf another wave, brother.
GB said…
What you say is misguided and quite distorted but brother, I would fight for your right to express your view. However,say something constructive next time.
Tell my why you think the justice system is not "so bad".
I have no "campaign". I just don't withold the truth. I have nothing to gain in what I am doing. No amount of money would get me back to Fiji. I appreciate the freedoms in Aus. too much to go down that path again.

Your insinuation that I am racist is offensive and without justification. Keep it objective, BRO. Put your real name on your next posting, if you dare.

Greg Bullard

%$#@! said…
@ greg, you are in good company. I am happy to accept you were decent in trying to contribute, but it was also, i think we all can see, misguided and naive to think that under a military regime you could be effective and independent. Perhaps in the 'new Fiji' you will be welcome and need to return and assist. BTW Croz doesn't appear remotely concerned at all at your treatement by the regime, which speaks volumes.Best of Luck.
Greg Bullard said…
Thanks %$#@! . I did not know if the PM was being deceived or was complicit. That is what I needed to see for myself. As time goes on the answer to that question is writing itself.

Croz can't do much. He needs to maintain his stance. He is doing his best to be optimistic. I am an optimistice person by nature. Gates might have done me a favour by turning me into a realist.

Anyway, I undertook to keep what happened in Fiji, in Fiji. Croz is in NZ. If and when I have more to say it will be emailed to Fiji's legal practitioners in Fiji.They can post it wherever. That is their perogative. My list of practitioners will be twice the size if there is a next time. I need to consider my position very carefully now. My first and foremost consideration is still the truth and justice for the beautiful Fiji Islands and her kind and generous people.

That is what gets me sad. I miss the coral coast and my friends. I don't know if and when I will be back. That hurts. Not just for me but my wife and kids as well.

No more posts from me for some weeks perhaps. For the record, my legal experts claim I was not paid my entitlements. That's really insignificant next to the big picture.

If the timing bell goes for round two, I will be ready. Time to rest and regroup now.

Vinaka and Dhanyawad to all who showed me support.

Greg Bullard
Anonymous said…

in your open letter it seems that your main complain is: "The judiciary, the legal profession and the ILSC are all under the direct or indirect control of the Chief Justice. This is a dangerous precedent. Justice cannot be done in Fiji until this is remedied. How it came to be like this can only be answered by the Attorney General and the Chief Justice". You give examples such as NSW where most of these institutions have some sort of parliament oversight. Now I don't think that the justice system in Fiji is currently perfect, hell it wasn’t before the coup either, but you went into Fiji KNOWING that there WAS NO PARLIMENT. How can you now complain that this is the situation! With the type of government that is now in Fiji who else but the Chief Justice should have this power? Before the coup complaints against lawyers were heard by the lawyers themselves. Do you think that was a better system?

It seems to me that you have had some sort of major disagreement with Gates and this suddenly changed your mind about the "system" that is in Fiji. Maybe you were in the right, maybe Gates. However that does not necessarily mean the whole system is wrong. Things like that happen still happen in Australia, even with parliament oversight.
Anonymous said…
@ Anon....I would be keen to hear any exapmple of any similar incident in Aust or NZ. The fact is none of those appointed by the regime are legitmate and there are few that want to be associated with the regime for the reasons stated above. Why on earth do you think we have Sri Lankans clamouring to get a job as judges then all of a sudden have 'family issues' and being sent packing in the middle of the night?? How many now ?? The regime can't even bring itself to explain ...oh yes no perfect indeed!!
Anonymous said…
Well, there was the issue regarding the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke. He made several decisions that senior staff below him were very unhappy about. He only got removed when he had an "improper relationship" with someone he promoted. Even then staff had to make a huge blow-up in the press before the government eventually removed him. In every organisation there are disagreements between junior and senior staff. I think this may have happened to Greg and he is just pissed that he can't go above Gates head to someone to complain. So he does in it C4.5 instead. My guess is there was a personality clash or someone would not listen to a great idea he had. I doubt that this "issue" is anything fundamentally about the system in place in Fiji though as this system was in place when he took up his position. What has changed since he was hired?
rusi said…
my guess is? This guy was judicial officer not a public servant and there was NO suggestion even by the regime of any misbehaviour on his part and in my experience people of greg's calibre don't leave after such a brief stint over an idea.More often than not, it's over principle. I note the regime is loathed to explain to the public the reasoning for his treatment and leaving the position.
Greg Bullard said…
@ Annon
I did not post anything on 4.5. I sent my observations to the lawyers of Fiji. They are free to do what they like with it. I took an oath of office before the President, that I would act without fear or favour. That goes without saying. I took an oath as a lawyer in NSW. That oath is universal.

Gates told me that they wanted to establish a legal profession oversight agency akin to NSW. That turned out to be lip service. I could not do anything without the chief registrar's approval. The LPU should be under the Permanent Secretary of Justice. That is not perfect but it would have been a step in the right direction and easy to achieve.

My proposals were based on structuring the LPU and amending the relevant Decree/s - so after the elections the systems and legislation were in place. It will be too difficult to amend these decrees after any election. The CR will control the legal profession.

There was no personality clash. Gates knew I was independently minded before hiring me. The observations I made could only have been made when I saw the current system close up. I did my job properly and made correct and sound legal recommendations. These were ignored.
@ Rusi
I have just forwarded a letter to Fiji's legal practitioners of what transpired in my first few weeks on the job. That might provide some answers for my termination. These are serious issues. I provided advice to the CR in relation to matters before the ILSC. I tried to do my job independently. The CR would not allow that. He would take my proposals to the CJ and then knock them back. Maybe my next letter (Parts 1 and 2)of my in country observations may clarify these issues. That is why I drafted it. I will give my account. People can form their own view.

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