Ni Sa Bula Vina’a and a very Good Afternoon to you all.
In my address to the Nation last week, I had said that your Government’s financial situation will be a challenge that needs to be addressed with urgency and we must continue to be prudent how we manage public finance.
I also said that we had made it clear in our Party Manifestos that the implementation of certain promises will very much be dependent on the true state of our financial position.
The Minister of Finance with his team are currently carrying out a review of the true status of government’s financial position.
We are also conducting mandatory audits and associated checks and balances.
Until these are completed we will be curtailing what we consider to be wasteful spending in areas that are not a priority.
As we do this, there are commitments your Coalition Government will need to honour.
We must ensure that we have money saved up, for the proverbial “rainy day.”
This we must do, so we could deal with natural disasters such as flooding and tropical cyclones, which are common – with increasing intensity – as you all know, particularly at this time of the year.
We must also be mindful that the aftermath of the COVID-19 shutdown continues to haunt more than 60% of our population who are living below the poverty line and facing hardship.
Some sectors of our economy, particularly the tourism sector, have shown reasonable recovery, whilst others are still struggling and sector performance continue to be uneven.
Higher than usual inflation, and increased prices for many basic consumer items have stretched family budgets.
Amidst all these, our desire is for school children from lower-income homes to have the best possible start to the 2023 school year.
In light of this, I take great pleasure in announcing today that your Coalition Government will offer back-to-school assistance of $200 per child to families whose combined income – combined income, is $50,000 and below. This is due to the hardship many families are facing challenges in the last couple of years, due to Covid-19 and the contraction of our economy whereby a lot of people have lost their jobs.
Your Coalition Government has allocated a sum of $50M under this programme through redeployment of funds within the current budget.
It is our hope that this assistance will in many ways ease the way back to financial stability for families who are still recovering from the dire economic events of 2020 and 2021.
Support for education – as you may be aware – is at the core of the Coalition Government’s commitment to the people of Fiji.
The Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minister the Honourable Professor Biman Prasad will provide more details on the programme;
Vina’a Va’alevu and thank you very much