Fiji’s permanent secretary for Economy resigns

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    The most senior civil servant in Fiji’s Ministry of Economy, Makereta Konrote, has resigned from the post.

    Konrote’s resignation comes at a critical time, as Fiji’s Minister of Economy remains in Singapore for medical treatment, and Fiji’s economy continues to take a battering from COVID-19 related border closures and Tropical Cyclones Yasa and Ana.

    Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has been conducting virtual national budget consultation sessions from Singapore, with the budget due to be delivered mid-year.

    The February economic update released by the Reserve Bank of Fiji this week stated labour demand remains weak, with job vacancies falling by 82.6 percent in January.

    The Reserve Bank says Value Added Tax (VAT) collections plummeted by 25.2% and new lending by commercial banks for consumption purposes fell by 39.3 percent. Commercial banks’ new lending for investment declined by 47.2 percent in January.

    The Bank stated declines in visitor arrivals (-98.5 percent), electricity (-13.7%) and mahogany (-98.7%), although there were production increases for cement, gold, pine, woodchips and sawn timber.

    Government recorded a net deficit of $545.8 million (US$269.3 million) (or 5.5 percent of GDP) in the first six months of the 2020-21 financial year. At the end of January 2021, government debt stood at 73.2 percent of GDP. 19 percent of this was external debt.

    Meanwhile, Fiji’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has accepted the resignation of the Permanent Secretary for Economy, Makereta Konrote, after 18 years of service to the Ministry of Economy, five of which she has served as the Permanent Secretary.

    “Makereta joined the Ministry of Finance as a graduate trainee nearly two decades ago. She now departs the Ministry of Economy, which has transformed in more than the name under her management. As a key part of our economic team, she’s helped make history many times over, including Fiji’s historic nine-year unbroken stretch of economic growth and unprecedented expansions to our network of social safety. Among her lasting legacies are her intrinsic involvement in restructuring and reforming the civil service, mainstreaming climate action across government planning, and centralising major capital projects through the Construction Implementation Unit. She has also helped develop a team of qualified and capable experts who will inherit the Ministry’s mantle of prudent economic management and world-leading climate action. As a friend and colleague, I wish her, her husband, and her daughter all the best,” said Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

    “Of my 18 years with the Ministry, the last five have been the most memorable and rewarding. Watching the Ministry expand its functions, pursue more sophisticated and complex policies, and improve on its deliverables has been the highlight of my career. It has been a great privilege to work on behalf of my country. I want young people, particularly young women, who are considering entering the Civil Service to know that it can be a deeply fulfilling career of service to your fellow Fijians,” said Konrote.

    “I especially thank the team and my colleagues for their support as well as the Minister. We have come a long way under his leadership. I’m confident that I’m leaving the Ministry in the good hands of dedicated Fijians who are firmly focussed on our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Konrote’s resignation will take effect from 15 March 2021. She plans to apply her economic expertise to take on new challenges in the near future.

    The PSC has appointed Shiri Gounder, the Head of Fiscal Policy and former Head of Treasury, to act as the Permanent Secretary for Economy Gounder’s appointment will become effective from 16 March 2020.

    “I’ve worked with PS Konrote for nine years in the Ministry of Economy. With her guidance, we’ve implemented a number of important reforms and I am proud to call her a mentor and close friend. We’re already in the midst of a seamless transition to ensure we continue with the responsible management of government finances and uphold consistency in our economic policies. We obviously have a serious challenge before us with the prolonged economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we prepare for the 2021-2022 National Budget, I look forward to working intimately with the private sector, civil society, and members of the public through our nationwide consultation process,” said Gounder.

    SOURCE: ISLANDS BUSINESS/FIJI GOVT/PACNEWS