Fiji’s Parliament has approved the 2023-2024 Budget, marking the first budget for the People Alliance-National Federation Party-SODELPA Coalition Government since the 2022 General Election.
The budget passed without amendments, with government members voting in favor (29 votes) and the opposition voting against (24 votes).
The budget approval followed four days of extensive discussion, with notable topics including the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) on non-zero rated items from 9% to 15%. Another point of contention was the seven-year tax holiday granted to water bottling companies, coupled with the usual parliamentary banter some of which escalated to heated exchanges, requiring the intervention of the speaker.
Two incidents that stood out involved opposition MPs Ketan Lal and Praveen Bala. Lal made remarks about Rabuka, resulting in his subsequent apology. Bala made claims against Professor Biman and has been given until September to provide evidence for his claims.
During the four days of sitting, amendments to various provisions of the standing orders were passed, including standing orders 13,17, 19, and 136 which provide for procedures on the election of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and President. These amendments introduced options for roll call voting or show of hands, to promote transparency and accountability, in the event of faults or glitches in the electronic voting system. In addition, amendments were made to standing orders related to speeches, documents, prayer, official reports, order of business, presentation of petitions, vote procedures, disorderly conduct, naming and suspension of members, functions of standing committees, presentation of reports, Business Committee, and the conduct of a ballot to appoint the President in case of a vacancy.
Photo courtesy of: Fiji Parliament