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July 30, 2017


RABUKA ADMITS N.B.F. MISTAKES BUT DEFENDS OUTCOME – QUOTES VETERAN BUSINESS LEADER LIONEL YEE: ‘whatever the pain, in the end the bank was saved, the loss minimised and the saved bank got bigger and better managed.’


The Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), and former Prime Minister, Sitiveni L Rabuka today blasted the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum for ‘hiding behind smoke and mirrors’ during the parliamentary budget debate on July 11 when the Minister tried to deflect criticism over the country’s perilous current financial and economic situation by dragging up the 1990s National Bank of Fiji scandal.

‘Khaiyum is hiding behind smoke and mirrors if he thinks raising the NBF issue from twenty years ago will make us forget his broken promises of yesterday, the missing hundreds of millions in taxpayer money today, and the failing fortunes of our economy that will blight all of our tomorrows,’ said Rabuka.
Rabuka said he was the first to admit that the NBF was a disaster and happened on his watch as prime minister. But what stopped it becoming a catastrophe was that he and his government were prepared to admit their mistakes. Rabuka stepped in quickly to take over the bad debts of the bank, swift, painful action which won plaudits even from the World Bank.

‘It gave me no pleasure at the time to do that but my responsibility was to act for the welfare of the country and the financial institutions that provide Fiji’s life-blood,’ said Rabuka.

‘That’s how you earn financial credibility and that is why I know that Khaiyum is presiding over one bad-news chapter after another each time he comes to Parliament to present a budget and opens his mouth.

‘Rather than be big enough to admit his mistakes, as I have done, he digs the country into a hole that gets deeper and deeper with each budget.

‘When was the last time anybody ever heard this government admit a mistake?’

Rabuka said the NBF saga was best understood by taking a longer term perspective. The former PM pointed to the opinions of widely respected business leader Lionel Yee whose executive career spanned Rabuka’s own time as prime minister through to that of the Bainimarama-led Fiji First government, which he served as chairman of the ATH-majority owned Vodafone Fiji Ltd.

Yee wrote to praise Rabuka about his timely intervention in the NBF situation, when borrowing had spiralled out of control, despite Reserve Bank oversight: ‘whatever the pain, in the end the bank was saved, the loss minimised and the saved bank got bigger and better managed, and you should be happy to take the credit because it could have really collapsed with all the mess that would have caused. The bank was saved to become Colonial National Bank and then onto the Bank of South Pacific.’

Yee, who retired in May 2012 after 18 years as Vodafone Fiji Ltd chairman but still serves as head of the company’s charitable foundation, said voters could trust Rabuka because in dealing with the NBF he had ‘displayed mature judgement, and determined leadership, allowing World Bank technicians to do what was necessary without yielding to vested interests.

‘It was a world-class act and described by the World Bank as one of the best seen in the world, all done under Rabuka’s determined leadership,’ said Yee.

Rabuka also replied to the claims of Fiji Sun columnist, Nemani Delaibatiki in his opinion column published on July 22, 2017, which rehashed the claims by Khaiyum.

‘Mr. Delaibatiki has faithfully taken up the NBF issue in the Fiji Sun, which is how the newspaper earns back the exclusive concessions it receives from the Bainimarama Government.

‘To serve the newspaper’s political interests, Delaibatiki’s column deliberately fails to mention the hundreds of millions that have gone missing and are unaccounted for under the Bainimarama government.

‘We are loudly told about the checks and balances this government has introduced, the creation of an anti-corruption body, a media regulatory authority and Commerce Commission with almost limitless powers to prosecute, and the constant surveillance of the police in the tiny detail of daily life like jaywalking.

‘Yet, despite ever more powers being taken by the state to boss us around over all manner of small things, like the annual general meeting of the Fiji Chess Federation, the continuing abuse of public funds is like a runaway train happening right in front of us all.

‘Blatant financial mismanagement totalling hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars has been identified by the Auditor General every year for the last eleven years since the 2006 military coup.

‘The depowering of Parliament and her standing committees and the climate of fear under which the media must now operate, creeping around on tip-toe, has done away with the checks and balances which would have exposed the losses sustained by the Bainimarama government due to their flouting of financial management procedures.
‘There is another reason that using the NBF argument by Khaiyum is proof of him trying to deceive the people of Fiji.

‘The fact is that the NBF crisis developed under the watch of the full constitutional and regulatory authorities that were in place at the time to oversee financial institutions. Not once did I try to micromanage these institutions, which is a hallmark of the Bainimarama administration.

‘When the NBF crisis was brought to my attention as the-then Prime Minister, I responded immediately to minimise any further risk to the financial sector and to the economy as a whole.

‘Delaibatiki and the Fiji Sun would do well to contrast the tough but honest action I took, with this government always sweeping their dead deals and broken promises under the carpet.

‘Khaiyum must have the busiest sasa-broom in the country.

‘Who remembers the proposed One Hundred Sands Casino development and the $100,000 a month in fines they were going to pay if they were late opening? Or the cancellation of the Exim Bank loan from Malaysia because the required transparent procedures were not in place?
‘Another loss is the Waila City Project which gave false hope that affordable housing will be available to all the people of Fiji.

‘There has been no explanation to the people of Fiji about these losses, what caused them and what corrective actions have been taken and what measures have been put in place to prevent recurrence.

‘The truth is that the Minister of Economy has run out of ideas on Fiscal Policy which is why the poor are being particularly punished.

‘Minister Khaiyum estimates that the average inflation rate will be around 3% by year-end, but the current monthly inflation rates suggest otherwise with the CPI inflation index hitting an all-time high of 116.7 Index Points in April this year (equivalent to 6.8%).’

A SODELPA Government will practice sound economic management to free Fiji from the current unsustainable levels of debt, crippling unemployment, the high cost of living and low-wage economy, the uneven distribution of wealth, and the oppressive laws that characterise the Bainimarama Government.

Source – Vote SODELPA FB – Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM.

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