Development partners like Australia, New Zealand and Japan wrote us large cheques for hundreds of millions of dollars to help us pay bills because they knew we needed help.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad said this in his ministerial statement in Parliament yesterday where he attacked the FijiFirst government for its reckless spending that resulted in Fijians living in a “debt-driven economic fantasy land”.

He said Fiji survived the COVID-19 crisis because of the numerous aid packages provided by Australia, New Zealand and Japan but now that the pandemic was over, the country had to find its own footing.

“Governments like Australia and New Zealand wrote us large cheques, for hundreds of millions of dollars to help us pay the bills. Japan lent us $200m at almost zero interest for the next 40 years,” he said.

“All of these lenders and governments recognised that simple humanity demanded that we be given help.

“But now the pandemic is over and we must once again stand on our own two feet. And this, is where our past will come back to haunt us.

“In the new post-COVID world, we cannot expect to simply borrow money at will. Our current debt position will come under scrutiny.”

Prof Prasad said while optimism was always good, Government also recognised the hard facts.

“The optimistic scenario assumes ‘business as usual’. And the Government cannot continue with ‘business as usual’. And let me talk about why.

“For the last 10 years we have been living in a debt-driven economic fantasy land. We have been pretending that we can just carry on as usual and everything will be all right. That is not true.

“For the last 10 years we have neglected basic infrastructure, the basic physical fabric that underpins the way many of us live and work.

“We all assume, every day, that there will be water in our taps, that our roads and bridges will work, that our natural environment will remain unspoiled, that our hospitals will look after us when we get sick and that our children will get a decent education.

“But every one of those assumptions is now at risk. And that is why I emphasise, we cannot just continue with business as usual.”

Source: Fiji Times

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