Editorial comment – Our national budget

GOVERNMENT has announced a budget that, from the outset, appears to be going big on environment-friendly policies.

Sceptics may insist it was to be expected.

The revenue forecast is $3,492million with the budgeted expenditure of $3,841m, resulting in an estimated net deficit of $349m, or 2.7 per cent of GDP.

The economy is projected to grow by 2.7 per cent in 2019 and 3 per cent in 2020 and 2021.

Today we touch on some of the areas of interest in last night’s announcement.

The ministries of Defence and National Security; Communications; Health and Medical Services; and the Sugar Industry received extra attention in the 2019-2020 National Budget.

Interestingly the Government has imposed a 10 per cent Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy on a number of white goods including freezers/refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, microwaves, electric lawn mowers, toasters and electric jugs.

It has also imposed a 10 per cent ECAL on motor vehicles of up to 3000cc.

Thin plastic bags available in supermarkets and markets will be banned and thicker plastic bags will incur a levy of 50 cents a bag.

This obviously is to discourage the use of plastics and promote the use of reusable bags, right in line with the direction the State has taken on environment initiatives.

There will be a ban on styrofoam packs from January 1, 2020.

Non-woven plastic bags will be costly as duty has been increased from 15 per cent to 32 per cent.

In what may be seen as a concerted effort to address growing discomfort on our roads due to traffic congestion, the Government has announced that import duty on passenger vehicles will be increased.

Minister for Economy and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum also announced that $650,000 would be set aside to help the Flying Fijians in their preparation for the Rugby World Cup in Japan in October.

As expected, the Government is set to continue its social policy programs which include free education, free bus fares and free milk for Year One students even though that, in particular, would decrease from $3.1million to $400,000.

There can be no doubts about the importance of the national budget for our economic and social development.

It will be interesting though to find out how the Opposition and other stakeholders analyse this budget.

It will be in the best interest of the nation that any nagging questions on the budget are put to rest.

We hope today’s coverage will serve as a brief guide for you to understand the 2019-2020 Budget.

You can also look forward to a more comprehensive coverage of the budget coupled with analysis in tomorrow’s edition of The Sunday Times.

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