On Pacific Beat with Evan Wasuka
The University of South Pacific’s vice-chancellor says Fiji’s failure to pay its grant contribution for the third year in a row is affecting the regional university’s operations and students, reports ABC’s Pacific Beat.
The Fiji government has refused to pay its grant since 2019 and did not allocate funding for its USP grant in the latest national budget.
Professor Pal Ahluwalia said the university had been able to keep operations going by prioritising spending, and cutting back on certain areas, like maintenance.
“The impact of not getting these grants from Fiji has been extensive on our students,” he said.
The university is a regional institution with 12 member countries paying grants based on the number of students attending.
Professor Ahluwalia said other member countries have been paying their contributions and are committed to keeping its operations going.
No sign Fiji government will pay up
RNZ Pacific reports that the Fijian government has no intention of paying the money it owes to USP.
In the Bainimarama government’s Budget estimates, no money has been allocated to the USP for third year after after it failed to get its way over the removal of the Professor Ahluwalia.
The debt is now estimated to be more than F$80 million (NZ$50 million).
This comes at a time when the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), chaired by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, stressed at its summit the importance of regionalism.
The regional university, perhaps the best expression of this regionalism, is seen to be under threat because Fiji — the main beneficiary — is not paying its way.
Last year the two staff associations at the USP accused the Fiji government of conducting a vendetta against the Professor Ahluwalia by withholding the funding.
Staff at USP allege the Fiji government is still conducting a vendetta against the vice chancellor.
The staff associations said that this was testimony to the ethical principles and good governance that Professor Ahluwalia had championed.
Other tertiary institutions in Fiji are set to receive substantial grants from the government.
According to The Fiji Times, the Fiji government’s budget estimates revealed eight higher education institutions had been allocated $48.9 million in the 2022-2023 Budget.
Grants will be given to University of Fiji ($2.3 million), Fiji National University ($45 million), Corpus Christi ($94,236), Fulton College ($103,918); Monfort Technical Institute ($338,912), Monfort Boys Town ($492,212), Sangam Institute of Technology ($114,411) and Vivekananda Technical Centre ($128,196).
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.