Fiji Sun - - COMMENT - NE­MANI DE­LAIBATIKI Feed­back: ne­mani.de­laibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

There should be no il­lu­sion. The Bud­get that will be an­nounced to­day by At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter for Econ­omy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is ex­pected to re­flect the tough times we are fac­ing be­cause of COVID-19.

There will be a mix­ture of aus­ter­ity mea­sures and ini­tia­tives to stim­u­late other sec­tors of the econ­omy other than tourism.

We can­not to­tally rely on tourism COVID-19 has shown and there is a need to di­ver­sify to keep our econ­omy grow­ing.

Agri­cul­ture is likely to get more at­ten­tion as one of the in­dus­tries putting its hands up. Among the oth­ers are man­u­fac­tur­ing, ex­ports and the knowl­edge econ­omy.

Agri­cul­ture has stepped up since COVID-19 ar­rived on our shores to fill the vac­uum cre­ated by the vir­tual col­lapse of the tourism in­dus­try.

The vul­ner­a­bil­ity of tourism to cli­mate change weather events and health threats from viruses makes it im­per­a­tive for us to de­velop other in­dus­tries that could carry the ba­ton from tourism in times like this.

In or­der to do this we must first in­vest more into re­search and in­no­va­tion that will find new ways of do­ing busi­ness.

We know there is scope for ex­pan­sion in agri­cul­ture, fish­eries, forestry and even min­eral min­ing.

It’s im­por­tant that we tap into their po­ten­tial and un­cover their ben­e­fits.

Dol­ing up money to help those in need is a tem­po­rary fix, but is not a last­ing so­lu­tion.

No Gov­ern­ment can do it in­def­i­nitely be­cause it’s un­af­ford­able and would plunge the coun­try into a se­ri­ous debt cri­sis. We should not bor­row money just for con­sump­tion.

If we need to, we can bor­row money for in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment’s and rev­enue gen­er­a­tion. Ini­tia­tives that would get our peo­ple work­ing are es­sen­tial. It’s im­por­tant that we em­power the peo­ple to be par­tic­i­pants not spec­ta­tors in the econ­omy. To be in­de­pen­dent and self re­liant - not de­pen­dent.

Our re­silience as a na­tion is based on our ca­pac­ity to han­dle any cli­mate change events or health threats like COVID-19.

This is not an easy time for any Gov­ern­ment. It is not a com­fort­ing thought to know that 115,000 work­ers here have ei­ther lost their jobs or are work­ing re­duced hours.

Gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees in­clud­ing civil ser­vants, teach­ers and health and med­i­cal work­ers should be grate­ful that they still have their jobs and are not work­ing re­duced hours. Un­like many of their coun­ter­parts in the pri­vate sec­tor.

But how long can the Gov­ern­ment sus­tain it if Gov­ern­ment rev­enue con­tin­ues to drop be­cause of the down­turn in busi­ness,

Cut­ting the slack would be top pri­or­ity and sav­ings made would help to main­tain our es­sen­tial ser­vices.

All in all ex­pect a pru­dent Bud­get.

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