A MOTION to have the Prime Minister’s Travel Allowance decreased from $1.5 million to $500,000 (US$727,000 – US$US250,000) was defeated in Fijian Parliament Tuesday.
The motion was brought by Opposition parliamentarian, Niko Nawaikula, who said Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama needed to concentrate on work in Fiji and place that as priority before his international duties.
“The reason for that is because our Prime Minister is not the Prime Minister for the world. He is the Prime Minister for Fiji, he should concentrate on what should be done here,” Nawaikula said.
“In the last year, I think he would have spent half the time that he should have spent staying here, going overseas, here and there and there.”
Nawaikula also raised concern with Bainimarama’s recent travel to fulfil duties relating to COP 23.
“Even for COP 23 that is for the world. If you have a concern for the environment, the Prime Minister should be here to look after the concerns for the environment here in Fiji.”
Attorney-General and Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum dismissed the criticism, saying Bainimarama’s travel served a purpose and he had paid just as much attention to his domestic duties.
“Madam Chair the reality is this that the Hon. Prime Minister has been heavily engaged by the international community,” he said.
“It is a huge accolade for Fiji, huge windfall for Fiji; it brings enormous attention to Fiji and indeed, Madam Speaker, enormous financial benefit for Fiji.
“Madam Chair, on the other flip side, no Prime Minister has ever traversed this much of Fiji.
“He reaches in the corners of Kadavu and Vanua Levu and other places where no other Prime Minister has gone. He has gone on horseback and boats everywhere.
“He is a Prime Minister madam Speaker who can perform his duties internationally and domestically just as well.”
The motion for a decrease in the travel allowance was defeated by a vote of 30 to 13.
The travel allowance was included as part of funding for the Prime Minister’s Office under Head 2 of the national budget.
The Committee of Supply that includes the whole Parliament and the Speaker will continue consideration of other heads in the budget today.