• National Federation Party - Fiji

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

forthcoming.


“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

the loans”.


“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”.


Professor Biman Prasad

Leader