‘Just plain arrogance’

Opposition parliamentarian, Lenora Qereqeretabua while contributing to the debate on the 2022-2023 budget in Parliament. Picture: PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF FIJI

Opposition member of Parliament Lenora Qereqeretabua said it was “just plain arrogance” that “our most vulnerable taxpayers have to deny themselves their ability to feed their families with dignity while poor planning and incompetent oversight by ministers get rewarded a $5 million safety net”.

She said this during debate in Parliament last week on the contingency provision for unforeseen circumstances allocation in the 2022-2023 budget.

Ms Qereqeretabua called for the allocation to be decreased by $4.5m.

She said the $5m was tucked away under the heading of “General Reserve Operating and Capital”, but in the details on the next page, it said the $5m was a “contingency provision for unforeseen expenses”.

“At a time when this Government is asking the most vulnerable of our taxpayers to make do with what we heard from the honourable Minister for Economy on Friday, July 15, 2022, it rewards itself with probably another slush fund as what I suspect to play around with, if the ministers responsible have not done proper due diligence within their own ministries to pre-empt budget blowouts,” she said.

“In addition, this $5m allocation rewards bad accountability and it rewards incompetent risk mitigating planning.”

In response, Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said it was “very tedious actually to try and respond to conspiracy”.

“They think everything is some kind of conspiracy, they think we are going to use this $5m to go and, as her leader says ‘buy votes’,” he said.

“No, if you look at the historical expenditure of general reserve, it is for specific unanticipated costs. Any good government will do that.”

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