HomeMedia CenterGovt DirectoryFiji LawsPolicy & DevBudgetVacancyAbout Fiji
Latest newsRSS
Media Center > Speeches > Opening of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Services Complex - PM Bainimarama

Opening of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Services Complex - PM Bainimarama

8/6/2009
Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
OStJ, MDS, jssc,psc


Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, National Planning, Public Service, Peoples’ Charter for Change and Progress, Information, Sugar, Foreign Affairs, International Co-operation and Civil Aviation, Indigenous Affairs, Provincial Development and Multi-Ethnic Affairs


Address at the Opening of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Services Complex



Nasese, SUVA.
Wednesday 5th August, 2009, 1600 Hours


CABINET MINISTERS;
THE CHAIRMAN AND BOARD MEMBERS OF THE FIJI ISLANDS
REVENUE AND CUSTOMS AUTHORITY;
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS; AND
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

A very good afternoon to you all.

Let me first express my heartfelt appreciation for the traditional ceremonies of welcome accorded to me. I also thank the FIRCA Board for the invitation to be part of this important occasion - the opening of the new Revenue and Customs Services Complex. And what a better time to have this occasion, as this year also marks the 10th Year Anniversary of the Authority, being an autonomous institution of Government.

This occasion marks an achievement of another important milestone leading to full integration of Inland Revenue and Customs services, within the Authority.

The new buildings will now house the staff of both the major revenue arms of Government - Inland Revenue and Customs. It reflects the dawn of a new beginning, where we feel greater synergies will bring about benefits in a lot of fronts, from exceeding customers expectation to higher revenue collections.

This new set-up reflects the way the Authority has moved to operate now and in the future. The Authority places greater recognition on the importance of joint collaborations by both Inland Revenue and Customs services, to improve tax compliance, improve collections and better management of information and intelligence.

At the same time, the Authority aspires to provide excellent services, to all taxpayers in the country - an aspiration that is well captured by the name of the building and its modern customer services set-up.

I am informed that there will be a dedicated Customer Services Centre. The centre will be staffed by experienced Customs and Inland Revenue staff and reflects the increasing commitment by the management and staff to provide first class services to its customers.

Government welcomes the strengthening of this focus that aims to effectively and efficiently deliver services, from responding quickly to queries to swift processing of refunds and returns.

The initiative to base all operations of FIRCA here in Suva to one location also comes with the need to provide a more conducive and comfortable working environment for the employees. An environment that encourages a greater sense of belongings, promotes learning, good practices and greater loyalty to the institution and the values it espouses.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is Government’s intention to bring in change in what we do and how we do things. This is reflected in Government’s strategic framework for change, which I had launched recently. The occasion today and the new building we see in front of us is a hallmark of change for FIRCA. It provides a new working environment for its staff, and together with new thinking and renewed drive, we should witness significant change from within that I believe will bring about greater dividend through significant revenue collections for Government.

Government recognizes the pivotal role played by FIRCA in supporting its economic and social objectives. FIRCA provides Government with about 90 percent of total Government revenue. It plays a facilitative role in the trading of goods. It implements tax incentives to promote investments and generate employment. It plays a primary role in ensuring that our national borders are protected from illegal activities.

As the main revenue collection agency, Government relies on FIRCA to facilitate economic growth, through implementation of tax policies and ensuring that the private sector is allowed to do business with greater certainty, flexibility and confidence, particularly at these times when the global economy is going through perhaps the most testing times since the great depression, in the thirties.

As we are inextricably linked to the global economy, our domestic economy has also been affected, by the global crisis, and is expected to marginally decline by 0.3 percent in 2009.

In the coming months, economic activity is expected to pick up with the recovery of visitor arrivals assisted by the devaluation of the Fiji dollar and strong marketing initiatives, which promote Fiji as an attractive tourist destination. The completion of major hotel projects such as the Laucala Island Resort and the Natadola Bay Resort will help ease the supply of accommodation at the upper end of the market, particularly when further demands are expected to come through by the securing of new air routes, through signing of bilateral airline services agreements in the near future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is optimism in our export industries. The recent devaluation has created additional demand for our products. Notably, exports of gold and fish have increased, while exports of timber, mineral water and garments which have been affected by weak demand are expected to rebound in the coming months.

Our foreign reserves are now at comfortable levels and the level of liquidity in the system has allowed interest rates to edge downwards. However, we must not rest on our laurels. We must seize these opportunities to pursue our economic and financial goals, whether they are personal or corporate goals. Government has provided various incentives as announced in the 2009 Budget, and has approved $51.0 million in additional VAT refunds to assist businesses in their cash flow difficulties.

This decision has been made possible by the good revenue performance in the first 6 months of the year, even with the economic difficulties we are facing. We hope that the trend will continue for the rest of the year.

This revenue performance is a reflection of the effort and hard work put in by FIRCA staff and I commend them for this.

Notwithstanding the good collections, of great concern to Government is the high level of uncollected and outstanding tax. I am glad to note that the amount has continuously reduced from $165m in 2003 to $90m as at the end of last month. These outstanding arrears should not be allowed to build up, and I request the Board to continue to put in place additional measures to ensure that those
taxpayers, who find joy in toying with our tax system, are penalized with harsher penalties.

BORDER CONTROL


I am aware of the many challenges FIRCA is facing that threaten the security of our borders. These include money laundering and illicit drug trafficking. Government does not condone these activities and will come down hard on those guilty of such wrong-doings.

To prevent such incidences from happening, FIRCA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Fiji Police Force. This is in addition to the MOU signed between the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and with the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC). All these arrangements will facilitate exchange of information and will deter potential culprits. I would say that it would not be worth trying one’s luck, if one is caught on the wrong side of the law.

REFORMS

Ladies and Gentlemen, I had earlier alluded to change and I am pleased to note that the FIRCA Board and Management have agreed to embark on a comprehensive reform program across FIRCA’s operations. In 2008, FIRCA had been evaluated by two reputable international organizations that have provided various reforms options for FIRCA.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) views that the synergy brought about by the current institutional structural arrangement provides a greater opportunity to maximize efficiency. An example of this is the staggered implementation of self assessment in Fiji. The self assessment concept will simply remove all the administrative difficulties associated with tax assessments and allow taxpayers to do this on their own.

The World Customs Organization (WCO), through its diagnostic’s mission to Fiji, highlighted that FIRCA needs to move towards adopting the Customs Kyoto Conventions to ensure modernization of Customs operations in line with global standards. Amongst other recommendations, FIRCA has taken this one on board in pursuing reforms of customs business processes.

I am informed that FIRCA will introduce a new tax administration decree from next year to simplify its business processes. The introduction of this new legislation is timely and it will be a boost towards an efficient tax administration in Fiji. I must acknowledge the contributions made by various stakeholders toward this legislation. The legislation should be in place by the end of the year, and will require consequential amendments to the Income Tax Act. We look forward to the contributions from our stakeholders in this exercise.

FIRCA is also in the midst of implementing a taxpayer portal system that would allow the taxpaying community to access information at any one time.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I do not want to go through all the reform initiatives that the Board and Management have agreed to pursue, but I am confident that they are all for the betterment of the Authority. I believe the exuberance is high for improvements to be driven from within this Institution, and which has been boosted by the movement to this new environment. The spirit is high to achieve new standards and to ensure that the values of the Institution are continuously lived and weaved into every echelons and practices of this organization.

Ladies and Gentleman, this is a historic moment. This moment deserves a celebration, as FIRCA has also reached its 10th year as an autonomous Institution.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this moment and this building mark the beginning of the realization of the Authority’s vision, which is “TO BE THE PREMIER REVENUE COLLECTION AND BORDER MANAGEMENT AGENCY IN THE REGION”.

With those words, I wish the Authority well in its future endeavors, and it is with great pleasure that I declare the Revenue and Customs Services Complex officially open.
 
footer_fijigov.jpg


© Copyright 2014. Department of Information