Fijian political party denounces FDB board chairman’s appointment

Attorney General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Picture: RAMA/FT FILE

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry has denounced the appointment of Fiji Airways CEO and managing director Andre Viljoen as chairman of the Fiji Development Bank board, saying that Fiji Airways has just borrowed $75 million from FDB.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum announced Mr Viljoen’s appointment while officiating at a recent event, where FDB successfully secured $US5 million ($F10.67 million) funding from the Green Climate Fund.

“The appointment is highly questionable, clearly involving conflict of interest,” Mr Chaudhry said.

“Fiji Airways has just borrowed $75 million from the FDB as part of the government-guaranteed loan of $455 million.

“In next to no time, Andre Viljoen, an outsider, gets appointed as the bank’s chairman taking preference over the other sitting board members.

“What is happening here?

“We have a preposterous situation where he is now both the borrower as well as the lender.

“This sort of thing is only possible in Fiji under the FijiFirst Government.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum announced in Parliament earlier this year the Reserve Bank of Fiji — through the export finance facility loan — would lend $75 million to the FDB which would then on-lend it to Fiji Airways as RBF could not do direct lending.

Mr Chaudhry said the terms of the loan had not been disclosed as with other loans to the airline by the Fiji National Provident Fund.

“Why are the terms not being disclosed? Where is the transparency in these deals?”

“We all know that Fiji Airways is in no position to meet repayments on these loans at least until the airline starts flying again which is not likely to be any time soon.

“Even then the first call on its debts is likely to be on its offshore loans.

“This is yet another foreigner being appointed to head the board of an important national institution.

“Does the minister not have confidence in the abilities and expertise of our own people?”

Questions sent to Mr Viljoen and Mr Sayed-Khaiyum about the comments made by Mr Chaudhry remain unanswered.

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