“Doing as Khaiyum and Bainimarama say, not as they have done”. (edited version in The Fiji Times, 30 August 2015)
Sitting here in Melbourne doing mundane academic work, I could not believe my eyes to read the advice given by the Hon Aiyaz Khaiyum to the dozens of people arrested in Ra on suspicion of plotting sedition (Fiji TV, 20 August 2015).
But it had be true as the same story and statements were repeated in the Fiji Sun 21 August 2015 (from which I shall quote).
The same advice is being given by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama (Fiji Times, 30 August 2015).
Khaiyum now against political instability
Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum reminded Fiji quite correctly that
“any form of instability can hinder economic development… overseas investors and even local investors … if they see something illegal that could happen or could be an interruption to the legal framework, they will hold back on investment, they will hold back on trying to create jobs…. rebellious activities will not help our country move forward.”
Khaiyum explained the human costs, again quite correctly:
“people .. need to have decent living, sustain jobs, they need to have their children go to school … If the economy goes down there will be less jobs and there will be an inability to invest in infrastructure.”
While Khaiyum did not say “do as I say, not as I do” of “do as I say and not as I have done” and his memory may be failing him (as happens frequently to some politicians), it is still good advice.
Economic impact of coups
Indeed, economists have been pointing out Khaiyum’s message since 1987.
After independence in 1970, the Fiji economy was racing along (Graph 1, the top dotted line).
Then the first quiet coup happened in 1977 (large black dot on the graph) when the NFP won the elections, but the Governor General appointed Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara as Prime Minister of a minority government.
After a successful motion of “No Confidence” and fresh elections, the Alliance won and ruled Fiji for the next ten years, also increasing military expenditure “just in case”.
The economy (solid black line on the graph) now stumbled along, well below the old trend indicated by the top dotted line.
[Note: The larger the gap between the dotted line and the solid line of actual growth, the larger is the lost national income, household incomes, and jobs.].
The “just in case” happened in 1987 when the NFP/FLP won the election.
Rabuka and the military obliged with a coup and threw out the legal framework of the 1970 constitution.
But now the military genie refused to go back into the bottle and Rabuka became an elected Prime Minister, with the help of a rigged constitution, and further escalated spending on the military “just in case”.
The economy declined for a couple of years, but recovered to a moderate growth path (second dotted line) as Fiji’s business community gleefully realized that a military political leader would give them more favours than an accountable elected Prime Minister (a lesson remembered after the 2006 coup also).
“Just in case” happened again in 1999, when Rabuka’s and Inoke Kubuabola’s SVT was decimated and Chaudhry’s Government elected, with the military genie doing another coup in 2000, led by shadowy figures still to be publicly identified.
Both Bainimarama and Interim Prime Minister Qarase tried to throw out the “legal framework” of the 1997 Constitution, but Justice Anthony Gates threw a spanner in their works.
The economy took another battering but slowly recovered (third dotted line).
By now political instability simmered as Qarase tried to rein in a belligerent Bainimarama, who did his 2006 coup, declared himself Prime Minister without any elections or help of a legal framework, although Mahendra Chaudhry was at hand.
This time, the economy stagnated for four years, with formal sector employment declining by about 3% and real incomes declining by a large 30% (the FBS Report on that is still suppressed by Cabinet).
Following some diversions provided by John Samy’s People’s Charter, the legal framework reinforced by the Court of Appeal judgement was thrown out with the 1997 Constitution.
Following more constitutional diversions from Yash Ghai and his merry team, they, the Peoples Assembly, and Fiji’s legal framework were all dispensed with by Bainimarama and Khaiyum who imposed their own constitution in 2013, bravely giving themselves immunity.
Now they have rewarded Fiji people with a free Public Holiday to celebrate a constitution they had no hand- a hand-out employers will be quietly gnashing their teeth over.
The economy has been growing strongly from 2012, but so far entirely because of massive increases in government expenditure on infrastructure and Public Debt.
If RBF growth projections are correct (another story), the GDP is now approaching the pre-2006 growth path (third dotted line) but Fiji has forever lost four years of economic growth, incomes and jobs (the gap between the dotted line and solid black line).
“Use the law” and “condemn sedition”
Mr Khaiyum’s advice to dissatisfied people in Ra and politicians in general is:
“to believe in the legal framework … follow the proper channel … If the people of Fiji want to vote out a particular party from Government they do that through the polls… and elections. … the people of Fiji [should] understand that at the end of the day it is the Fijian people’s livelihoods at stake…
But Bainimarama and Khaiyum themselves did not contest the 2006 elections and “follow the proper legal process” to replace the Qarase Government, as Khaiyum is advising today.
Sayed-Khaiyum and Bainimarama today lectures “Any responsible Government or Party needs to say that any destabilisation is not good for the country.
But Ratu Mara’s Alliance did not condemn the coup in 1987, nor did Ratu Inoke Kubuabola’s SVT and Qarase’s SDL condemn the coup in 2000, nor did Mahendra Chaudhry’s FLP condemn the coup in 2006, of which Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party is a direct beneficiary.
Economists’ advice is good advice
Mr Khaiyum’s advice should be followed, whether he and his Leader follow it themselves or not.
Graph 2 (from World Bank data) by comparing our economic performance (bottom line) with that of Mauritius (top line), shows clearly the long term costs of our political instability and military coups.
Fiji has a military that costs taxpayers more than a hundred million dollars annually (what does that amount to in ten years?), does coups now and then that cost Fiji billions of dollars, while Mauritius has no standing army and no coups.
Between 1976 and 2014, Fiji’s GDP has merely doubled while Mauritius has increased five times.
As Khaiyum says, any attempt to change the government by force will mean more political instability, loss of investor confidence, and loss of jobs and incomes, while poverty will increase.
Politicians who want to change the government should do the hard work and change people’s minds by the 2018 elections, as Khaiyum advises.
Unfortunately, it is much easier to do military coups, as all our former military commanders and Khaiyum himself, will probably testify.
Unfortunately it is also clear now that Bainimarama and Khaiyum are going to use their pliant parliamentary majority to reject even reasonable proposals from the Opposition Parties, as they did with Tupou Draunidalo’s recommendation for a neutral parliamentary Counsel.
As they also senselessly rejected Viliame Gavoka’s very sensible motion for Government to initiate a retirement homes industry which could create tens of thousands of jobs.
Do Bainimarama and Khaiyum want to give the arrogant message that peaceful processes, cooperation, and constructive suggestions through parliament and dialogue will get the Opposition nowhere?
How can Opposition parties “do what Khaiyum says” when all it amounts to pots hypocritically telling kettles not to be black?
For anyone with a slightest bit of memory, the Bainimarama Government’s utterances are a national and international joke.