CEO: Budget fair for private sector

An empty Suva City on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation CEO Kameli Batiweti says Government’s decision to provide a two-year holiday on repayment and support to pay interest rates for the first two years will be very well-received by the MSMEs. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

The 2021/2022 National Budget is fair, taking into account almost all aspects which need to be covered to keep the private sector running during these difficult times. These were the sentiments shared by the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation CEO Kameli Batiweti.

Responding to questions from this newspaper, the CEO said what was equally important was the consideration by Government to keep Fijians employed by assisting the local manufacturers with their requests.

“The honourable minister had consultation sessions with almost all industries in the country prior to the budget announcement and this is reflected in the budget that was announced,” he said.

“We refer to the three budget principles that advocates for vaccination that will protect every Fijian against the virus, that Government wishes to continue to sustainably support individuals and businesses hit hardest by the pandemic and continue to future proof Fiji.

“Amongst the others, the $200 million special funding via licensed financial institutions for MSMEs under the Recovery Credit Guarantee Scheme is a significant consideration.

“Another great initiative in assisting Fijians who make up the MSME cadre to be able to access these funds to sustain their businesses, and/or grow their businesses up to the next level. “ Mr Batiweti added the conditions which Government had included as part of this initiative was very attractive for the MSMEs and is a game changer.

“The focus of this initiative is to assist the MSME and large organisations with funding working capital, payment of rent and utilities, payment of wages and purchase of stock, et cetera.

“MSMEs struggle with these payments, and Government including this in this year’s budget is a lifesaver for the MSMEs.

“Government’s decision to provide a two-year holiday on repayment and support to pay interest rates for the first two years will be very well-received by the MSMEs.”

He said last year, Government provided concessionary loans which approximately 10,000 MSMEs applied for and were assisted. This year’s plan had ramped up last year’s initiative in a significant way.

Mr Batiweti added this was the budget for now.

“The smart move by Government was that it is a six months budget, with a review at the end of the first six months.

“This will assist Government, with input from the private sector, to review whether the budget announced on the July 16, 2021 is achieving its objective/principles and whether there is a need for some minor amendments to ensure that all is not lost.”

FCEF will work with its 10 councils to solicit their feedback and allow the federation to share the same with the Ministry of Economy to assist it with its evaluation at the end of the six months of the 2021/2022 financial year.

“There is also something in the budget that FCEF and a number of other bodies can use to assist MSMEs in providing training and advisory services, to name a few,” Mr Batiweti said.

“In the early days of the lockdown, our members were requesting our assistance almost every day. FCEF would reach out to MCTTT for assistance on behalf of our members, and we would receive assistance which we would usually share with our members. As a result, Government has assisted the private sector a lot that the requests are not as many as in the early days.”

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