DISMAL DISMAC a hand and premilinarily assess that against national costs to Government and what it will mean for the inevitable diaohrrea that our wallets are going to have.
1.30 Projected growth in the sugarcane industry, coupled with an envisaged expansion in the forestry, other crops, livestock and fishing industries is forecast to contribute to a 4.6 percent rise in the agriculture, forestry, fishing & subsistence sector.
1.31 A projected increase in tourist arrivals is anticipated to provide the impetus for positive performances in the transport & communication and wholesale & retail trade and hotels & restaurants sectors. In addition, the land transport, water transport and communication industries are also forecast to underpin growth in the in transport & communication sector.
1.32 Forecast growth within the sugar, other food, beverage & tobacco and other non-food industries is expected to drive a 2.4 percent growth in the manufacturing sector.
1.33 Growth in the electricity & water sector is forecast at 2.3 percent while the finance, insurance, real estate & business services and building & construction sectors are both forecast to grow marginally by 0.4 percent.
We would not be wrong to suggest that the document now needs a major reality-checked overhaul.
It is also safe to say that the superlative-laden response's to the budget from folks such as Motibhai’s Mr Mahendra Patel, (I)FNPF Chairman Felix Anthony, (I)FTIB Chief Annie Rogers, Ernst & Youngs Francis Chung, CMDA's Mereia Volavola, Hari Punja, and Ro Teimumu Kepa could do with some better qualifying adjectives.
Sugar, which according to the latest budget contributes “approximately 6% of total GDP, 25% of total domestic exports, and employing 40,500 people” is in big trouble. The Sun reports that the growers are reeling at the total damages that could run into the tens of millions. This does not include the individual townships of the sugar centres that have mills, and who primarily service this industry: Lautoka, Nadi, Tavua, Ba and the Rarawai Mill.
The tourism sector will not be left unscathed in the short to medium term unless
In the construction sector, even though 2008 statistics show an increase in the 3rd quarter of 2008, it is inevitable that there will be next to zero growth in this department for at least the first 2 quarters of 2009 until the economy is stimulated or injected to create/meet this demand.
For the domestic agricultural sector which contributes (as at 2007), 11.6% of our GDP, the IIG had anticipated that it would be “demand driven” in approach. How true. It will be in demand, but supply is stricken and restricted to water-logged crops across agricultural centres. Farmers are being advised to harvest their crops now and plant (if and when they can) agricultural root-crops that are quick to mature. Any export promotion of agricultural products is going to have to be removed in order to service the domestic food security needs first. And we’d be far better off redirecting the said $50mill for biofuel production towards this.
Retailers are becoming agitated at the slow pace of assistance to them.
For essential services:
Electricity supply to some affected areas is still undergoing work.
Telecommunications a core link in any disaster was hampered drastically, with slow restorations todate. Although collectively they are attempting to offer some communications relief to the nation: Telecom, Digicel and Vodafone. Radio broadcasts of pivotal safety advisories out to the rural populace is a must particularly when the main feed services the AM frequency and in the vernacular. It is no wonder that many were caught unaware.
Health services must be immediately prioritized after disaster relief. Already there is a broken sewer in Sigatoka, the mortuary is full, disease outbreaks a distinct possibility, the water-borne diseases reality, and to top it off the blood bank is low on blood. The safe and hygienic disposal of all waterlogged goods/products/homeware/dead animals/debris will also need to be overseen. The last thing we need is an epidemic.
In terms of immediate disaster relief. There appears to be still a severe lack of coordination by DISMAC, and the steady filling up of evacuation centres needs close management. Any and all hands still need to be expeditiously reaching out to stem the rising tide of hunger that is out there.
So what’s the outlook for us everyday fullahs?
Spiked inflation especially on the everyday staples. That’s your groceries, such as milk/butter. For those in the rural centres, because of the extensive infrastructure damage to roads, getting food in will be challenging. Imported rice is already very costly. Tinned goods need to be vigorously checked against use-by dates, pricing and dents. The price of flour remains stable for the moment.
Fresh fruit n vegetables, root crops and fish supplies will dwindle which jacks up these prices.
Depending on how steady the global oil prices stay, fuel prices should remain the same and therefore so should bus-fares and electricity bills. We’ll be damned if FEA gives us any more tales about the Monasavu Dam. Gas and kerosene prices should remain the same also.
The price of back-to-school needs for schooling crew should not increase but spare a thought for those who may have lost already purchased materials during the floods.
The cost of drugs and antibiotics will also need watching.
Concessions or assistance with building materials such as roofing iron, cement, timber, bricks, louvres etc would be very handy for those with housing damage. The same applies for clothing/shoes and household essentials like bedding, pots/pans, cutlery, digging spades/forks, cane knives etc.
The Prices and Income Board overseen by the Consumer Council will need to be out there policing price hikes expeditiously especially in the rural outposts.
What does all this mean for the IIG?
For starters they need to kill all low-priority expenditure. Low priority for the next couple of months means anything that does not involve disaster rehabilitation, essential services (most especially health), mandatory infrastructural maintenance and education. Everything else is unnecessary in the bigger scheme of things.
The Charter malarkey which is costed at $2.4mill is a start.
The carrot dangling tax rebate means that we will not meet the tax revenue of $1.331 bill for next years budget as outlined in the IIPM’s budget speech. In fact some unscrupulous entities could end up making a profit on this offer, if left unchecked.
The departure tax increase has kicked in and Tourism
The insidious road use levy also needs rescinding. Uhhh yeah…what roads? For heavy duty vehicles that are apparently being targetted, it's hard to see any reason why they will be tearing up and down the highways now.
The new bottled water tax has been gazetted and it is supposed to be in line with the projected income of $1.5mill. The IIG will need to think that one through again as there are not many other industries that can prop up the economy right now. Therefore they need to be keeping those still kicking verrrry happy.
As noted earlier before the $50mill earmarked for biofuels will come in very handy for more pressing priorities of disaster rehab.
The bottom-line is that we have a very bleak outlook with minimal options to fund the many, many, many pressing needs. Ultimately it's not a good time to be II PM Minister cum II Sugar Minister cum II Finance Minister. All this can change in an instant Mr Bainimarama if you step down and call for elections.
Folks, please continue to keep your eyes peeled on the
To view pictures of the recent natural disaster damages, click on the galleries below as hosted by the appropriate organisations: