Fiji’s Minister for Finance and acting Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad began budget consultations in the North of Fiji today, following three-day round of consultations in the West.
During the discussions in the West held in various locations including Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka, Ba, and Tavua, a range of critical issues were raised underlining the need for balanced economic policies that foster growth, generate employment opportunities, and cater to the specific needs of different sectors.
Infrastructure development emerged as a prominent concern among citizens in several locations. Participants underscored the urgent necessity for road repairs, improved drainage systems, and overall infrastructure improvements.
The state of the healthcare system garnered considerable attention during the consultations. Citizens indicated their desire for the modernisation and improvement of health services nationwide to meet the growing demands of the population.
Agriculture emerged as another crucial sector for discussion, with participants voicing concerns about the sugar industry, farmland availability, rice farming, and the ban on necessary farming chemicals. The consultations highlighted the importance of providing necessary support to farmers, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and addressing the challenges faced by the sector.
Water supply issues were also prominent, with citizens urging the government to address this significant concern. The consultations highlighted the urgent need for improved water supply infrastructure and reliable access to clean water throughout the country.
The Tertiary Loan Scheme, aimed at supporting higher education, also received extensive attention during the consultations. Participants discussed the strengths and areas for improvement to ensure equitable access to tertiary education for all deserving students.
Labor shortages was also identified as a growing concern, with participants urging the government to address this issue to foster economic growth and stability.
Tax incentives for businesses took center stage during discussions at the Lautoka Chamber of Commerce and Ba Chamber of Commerce. Business owners and entrepreneurs discussed the significance of tax incentives in promoting investment, stimulating job creation, and fostering a favorable business environment.
The social welfare scheme, aimed at providing support to vulnerable populations, was also a key topic of discussion. Participants stressed the importance of ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of the scheme to provide adequate assistance to those in need.
Housing and living quarters were also raised during the budget consultations. Citizens expressed worries about the deteriorating condition of government quarters and termite infestation particularly in Lautoka, calling for improved housing options to enhance living standards and ensure decent accommodation for all.
Discussions in the West also covered issues such as rent freezes, business incentives, tax rates, and cash-based systems for sugarcane farmers.
Consultations in the West were held at the Lomaiwai Temple in Sigatoka, Nadi Civic Centre, Nadi Bluelight Hotel, Tunalia Hindu Mahasabha Primary, Lautoka Sugarcane Growers Council Hall, Lautoka Market Vendors Accommodation Centre, Lautoka City Council Chambers, Veisari Sanatan Dharam School, Toko Sanatan Primary in Tavua, Tavua Mataniwai Temple, and Ba Town Council chambers.
Budget consultations in the North continues tomorrow.