An election gimmick doomed to fail
June 17, 2022
“Government should suspend all repayment of TELS loans for the next five years until the
economy improves sufficiently”.
“If government can justify its huge debt portfolio by saying it has obtained long-term loans
at concessionary terms of up to 40 years, it is only fair that our financially stricken students,
young graduates and their parents are given at least 5 year repayment holiday”.
National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad made the comment following
announcement of plans by the Ministry of Economy and Tertiary Education Loans and
Scholarship (TELS) Service to negotiate with financial institutions to provide loans to
students to enable them to pay 50% of their debt and clear their TELS loans.
“It is an election gimmick that is doomed to fail because it will neither salvage TELS from its
failed policy implementation nor help financially-stricken students in any way”.
The NFP Leader questioned government how will students be able to obtain loans from
financial institutions to clear TELS loans when they don’t have meaningful employment.
“Who will guarantee their loans? Will it be government? Or will parents, guardians or those
who already signed the initial TELS loan guarantees will be asked to provide
securities/guarantees to financial institution?”.
“The reality of the matter is that TELS has been hopelessly managed. Many, many deserving
students have been denied the opportunity to obtain loans for their preferred course. For
example, MBBS students entering the program through Foundation have been denied both
scholarships and loans, which is thoroughly discriminatory”.
Professor Prasad said the Fiji First government should understand that despite offering the
incentive of discounts to loans between 10-50 percent depending on loan amounts and time
taken to pay the loans four years ago in the 2018-19 budget, repayments haven’t been
“That was also an election year. So after the colossal failure of that election gimmick,
resulting in students now owing TELS $571 million, government has cooked up another
gimmick, hoping it can fool the students, their parents/guardians or those who guaranteed
“Government must swallow its pride and accept that the so-called Bainimarama Boom until
2018 may have created new jobs but not meaningful and decent paying employment
commensurate with skills and qualifications”.
“This situation deteriorated in 2019 when the economy stagnated despite Fiji emerging out
of a general election, which normally should have created confidence but didn’t”.
“And with the onslaught of Covid since 2020, the job market shrunk even further. Only 4
months after the start of the first wave of Covid in March 2020, government confirmed
115,000 workers lost their jobs”.
“Several thousand more workers had to take massive pay cuts or work reduced hours”.
“Undoubtedly, it included young graduates who owed TELS loans”.
“It will take at least 5 years for the economy to fully recover from the effects of the
pandemic as well as the mismanagement of the economy by this government”.
“Therefore, any incentive designed to heap more financial burden on students, their parents
or guardians will be highly counter-productive”.