Government debt exceeds $9b

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad. Picture: REINAL CHAND

The government debt is more than $9 billion, which is more than 80 per cent of Fiji’s Gross Domestic Product.

Acting Prime Minister and Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad said the debt amount was significant, and Government had to carefully manage its fiscal consolidation strategy.

“And so as a government, we have to be constantly mindful of anything that we do in terms of revenue, in terms of our expenditure, in terms of our priority, in terms of additional borrowing, or additional request for budget support,” he said.

“We have to do that within a framework and within an understanding that over a period in the mid-term, in the long term, we should progressively bring down our debt level.

“That’s the long-term strategy.”

He said if there was a need to borrow to fill critical gaps for financing of key priority areas, then they would borrow.

“We’ve never said that we would not take any further debt.

“What we’ve been saying quite clearly since we came into government, is to say that we would adopt a better and a clearer fiscal consolidation strategy.

“And the component of that fiscal consolidation strategy are two main ones — one of course is making sure that we are able to collect enough revenue, that we look at our tax base, and other revenue sources so that we are able to collect enough because we want to spend enough.

“But more important than that is, as part of our fiscal consolidation, we want to ensure that we cut down on wastages; we look at the priority.

“In simple terms, when you formulate a budget, you look at your revenue, you look at your expenditure; the gap between revenue and expenditure and, you know, there is never enough revenue to undertake all the expenditure.

“So, if there is a need to borrow to fill that critical gap for financing of key priority areas, then we will have to borrow more, but that has to be in within the framework of a strategy that over a period of time, the total borrowing, the total debt level can be brought down.

“That’s the focus that we’ve been putting out to everyone.”

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