As we prepare to sing Isa Lei and wave Chodopu$$ good bye, let’s reflect on a few highlights of his term as Illegal Minister for Finance and speculate on life in the Illegal Regime without him.
The highlight for economy watchers was his breaking of Rabuka’s record for steepest economic nose dive. Latest RBF figures confirm that he managed to shrink the economy by a massive 6.6 per cent. The best that Rambo could manage was 6.4 per cent in 1988, after not one, but two coups.
In 1989 Rambo (or more accurately his Finance Minister, Jo Kamikamica) managed a 2.2 per cent turn around. At the same time he was radically restructuring the economy and introducing new investment in new industries such as clothing.
In 2008 independent experts have doubted that one per cent will be achieved this year while the RBF revised its hoped for rate down to 1.7 per cent in April.
Qarase’s record can’t compare with this. The coup which he didn’t start knocked only 1.7 per cent of GDP. The following years Qarase achieved growth of 2 per cent and 3.2 per cent.
So what will the future hold for Chodopu$$ after leaves. Can his former colleagues count on him to continue to stand behind their efforts? Of course, that’s not a serious question. Even while inside the camp, he and Sayed-Khaiyum were working against one another.
Sugar will be Chaudhry’s first target. he will naturally want to put as much distance as he can between himself and the unfolding disaster in the sugar industry. He has already called for elections to be confirmed for next year so that he doesn’t have cane farmers blaming him for the loss of EU aid.
Mahendra Chaudhry is still a cunning and ruthless politician who will not hesitate to tell lies with passion and conviction, but he has his work cut out for him now.
In 1999, his hold on the Indo-Fijian community gave him just over thirty percent of the vote, which with his clever politicking he turned into a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. But there is no chance of this now. Many of his former supporters will desert him but, more importantly, everybody will be united against him. No clever or cynical preference deals will be possible now.
Finally, an Illegal Government without Chaudhry is one step closer to being able to compromise and find a way out of the mess, particularly if (I mean when) Chodo turns on the Illegal regime and attacks it ruthlessly.