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Friday 22 Oct 2021 | 20:00 | SYDNEY

The GFC hits Fiji public service


Jenny Hayward-Jones


3 April 2009 08:31

Fiji’s economic woes are fast becoming a much bigger story than its political impasse.

The Fiji Times has reported a decision by Fiji’s Public Service Commission to make a 50% cut to the operating budgets of all government ministries. The Public Service Commission on 1 April clarified the announcement by emphasising the global financial crisis had made it necessary to explore avenues for reductions in operating costs and assuring unions that the welfare of civil servants was a priority.

As personnel costs form the largest part of government expenditure (Fiji’s 2009 budget estimated personnel costs at FJ$663 million or 49.7% of total operating expenditure), a 50% cut will surely mean significant retrenchments. Prioritising the welfare of civil servants does not necessarily mean keeping them employed during an economic crisis.

The decision will have a negative impact on poverty levels as many public servants are the sole breadwinners for large extended families. It is hard to see how cuts as drastic as these would not hurt essential service delivery. The interim government’s pro-poor 2009 budget, praised as a potential positive element for the economy by the Asian Development Bank’s just published Asian Development Outlook report, looks to be a casualty of the GFC.