Editorial Comment – Parties’ take on poverty

The issue of poverty rates quite highly on the list of some of our political parties. Picture: FT FILE

THE issue of poverty rates quite highly on the list of priorities of some of our political parties. Fiji, they agree, needs to be innovative to address poverty. The National Federation Party, Social Democratic Liberal Party, Unity Fiji party and the Fiji Labour Party believe our poverty rate has gone up. They reckon people are struggling to make ends meet. As part of our continuing countdown to the 2018 General Election, we asked the six registered political parties about their stand on poverty alleviation. We asked them to talk about development strategies and policies they planned to use to alleviate poverty. The question was based on the Household Income and Expenditure Survey by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics which estimated the country’s poverty rate to be at 28.1 per cent. We asked them whether poverty alleviation would be part of their development strategy. We made an effort to seek the views of the FijiFirst party and the Fiji United Freedom Party on Wednesday as well. However, they had not responded when this edition went to press last night. The NFP, FLP, Unity Fiji and SODELPA responded to the questions though. NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad believes the 2013-14 household and income expenditure survey by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics revealed poverty to be around 28.1 per cent. However, he claims that four years later the figure was at direct odds given the number of people seeking assistance at various State announced programs. Unity Fiji leader Savenaca Narube believes poverty must be used to measure a country’s performance. Technical definitions aside, he said, poverty was everywhere for everyone to see in Fiji. The signs, he claimed, showed more people had slipped below the poverty line since the 2014 HIES. SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka believes the effective participation of all citizens in socioeconomic development was a basic human right. A SODELPA government, he said, would put into place a well co-ordinated plan for the provision of social welfare services. FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry said poverty had to be one of the most crucial social issues facing our nation. Obviously the different parties have their takes on the issue, strategies and policies to effectively engage the masses, and hopefully improve their lives. The key though is translating this to the level of the ordinary person on the street to understand. Such observations, and the differing opinions emanating from our political parties, we hope, would assist in enlightening people about issues they may be interested in. We hope these columns by the political parties are relevant and would aid in the dissemination of views on strategies and policies. They should allow us to have a sense of appreciation of different views. The views, hopefully, are relevant, and offer you a broad range of opinions on important matters.