Falling value of the Fiji dollar
31 March, 2018, 12:00 am
CURRENT government policies have pushed up the cost of living substantially, making it one of the main difficulties faced by our people, in particular families with low incomes.
The falling value of the Fiji dollar in recent years is a major contributor to the high cost of living faced by our people.
The Bainimarama administration devalued the dollar by 20 per cent in 2009, sending the prices of imported food and other goods escalating.
The reimposition of VAT on basic food items in 2016 and the introduction of a number of other taxes and levies since then have made matters worse for families with low incomes.
Over the past 10 years, continuous increases in duty and tax on imports have added to the difficulties of these families.
On average, food prices have risen by an astounding 60 per cent in some cases while wages have remained static or well below the inflation rate. Labour will move to substantially increase the national minimum wage and review wage levels generally to achieve social equity. Labour will remove VAT from basic food items, medicines, bus fares and other essential household items to give relief to the poor.
Labour will explore ways and means to minimise the impact of devaluation of the dollar on our cost of living. We will undertake a review of the exchange rate mechanism in this regard.
The price of locally-produced fruits and vegetables have risen steadily in recent years. Labour will work to assist the primary producers access the markets directly through well-organised co-operatives, thereby benefitting the consumer.
We will reduce the cost of doing business because the benefits of this will be passed on to the consumers. High rents for commercial premises is a huge cost to businesses. Labour will place commercial rentals under surveillance to keep them at reasonable levels.
Residential rents, medical costs, acute shortage of low cost housing etc are all a part and parcel of the high cost of living. Those who are unable to afford it are doomed to a life of misery in our squatter settlements. This is unacceptable. Labour will declare war on poverty and take tangible steps to eradicate it through education, State assistance, added opportunities and by empowering the poor.