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“Public pronouncements by Deputy Governor RBF” Letter to Editor (The Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Island Business, Ashwin Raj) 7 July 2014

07/07/2014

“Public pronouncements by Deputy Governor RBF” Letter to Editor (The Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Island Business, Ashwin Raj) 7 July 2014

Dear Sir

For 44 years, Fiji has been fortunate to have its currency managed by a Reserve Bank of Fiji, which has been efficient, professional, honest, transparent and totally accountable to the Fiji public, through their timely and informative Annual Reports.  This worthy record is now under threat.

The Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji is reported to have made a number of questionable statements to the Fiji:NZ Business Council, about “risk factors” associated with the September elections (FBC News, 4 July 2014) that

* the important thing is not to have elections, but having a stable government after elections

* making sure there is no immediate reversal of policies and incentives

* because that will really tick off a lot of businesses

* and harm the economy

The Board and Governor of the RBF need to remind Mr Ariff Ali that according to the Bank’s Charter (available in their Annual Reports), the principal purposes of the Reserve Bank are to

* to regulate domestic currency, and the supply, availability and international exchange of money

* to promote monetary stability and a sound financial structure

* to foster credit and exchange conditions for balanced economic development

* provide proactive and sound advice to Government.

Mr Arif Ali’s statements do not come under any of these purposes and can be construed as political and partisan.

Even Mr Ali would know that since 1970, Fiji has had long periods of stable governments in which reasonable economic growth occurred, with the only “risk factor” being the military coups of 1987, 2000, 2006 and 2009.

Indeed, Mr Ali ought to have reminded the Fiji:NZ Business Council, that to minimise future risks to the economy whatever the outcome of the September elections, the elected government must be respected by the military, as Brig. Gen. Tikoitoga has clearly stated.

Mr Ali ought to have also emphasized that the RBF respects the fundamental right of any future elected government to change or even reverse policies and incentives in the interests of the Fiji public, if they see fit.

For Mr Ali to mention that this might “tick off a lot of businesses” is a blatant attack on the fundamental rights of an elected government to introduce whatever policies they feel appropriate, including those that may “tick off some businesses”.

From his statements, the Deputy Governor seems to be speaking on behalf of the current government and the business community, thereby badly comprising the neutrality of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

There is a more general issue here that the public must think about.  Since 2009, a government declared illegal by the 2009 Court of Appeal, has made many appointments to important positions, such as the Chairman of the Commerce Commission, Chairman of the PSC, CEOs of all the statutory authorities, PS’s in the Civil Service,  the Commissioners of Police and Prisons, the Commander of the RFMF, Deputy Governor of the RBF and Supervisor of Elections.

Some of these appointments, especially where the appointees are quite young and inexperienced, have caused some disquiet and amusement amongst the public.

Nevertheless, once in office, the appointees must abide by the charter of these organisations, and act and speak with total neutrality, integrity and professionalism, if they are to retain the respect of the public, and not be seen as mere pawns of the appointing authority.  Such an approach requires not just moral courage, but the experience and maturity that many unusually young appointees do not have, but must learn.

Such appointees must be groomed by their respective boards, if the board members themselves are to retain their public reputations and integrity.

One would think that the RBF would have an internal rule (normal for all organizations), that sensitive public statements must be made by the Governor, and not Deputies, or at least vetted by the Governor before delivery.

I call on the Board of the Reserve Bank of Fiji and the Governor, on whom the ultimate responsibility rests, to make a public statement on the matter so that the reputation of the RBF is not tarnished during this sensitive transition period.

Professor Wadan Narsey
Suva

 

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