OVER-GENEROUS giving to the vanua, the church and overspending on mobile phones contribute to poverty. Spending on luxury purchases, failure to stick to a proper budget, failure to set priorities on spending and lack of kindergarten facilities also contribute to poverty.
A prominent social worker and chairman of boards of various organisations, Father Kevin Barr, yesterday described these as some of the contributors to poverty.
Fr Barr yesterday defined poverty to National Federation Party members during a presentation to the party's working committee meeting in Suva.
He said the 2007/2008 Household Income and Expenditure Survey revealed that 31.4 per cent of the country's population was living in absolute poverty. Fr Barr said it could be 35 per cent or more today as it has been a few years since the survey was carried out.
He said most people in poverty lived in rural areas, particularly those of Indian descent.
"We have always known that there's a lot of poverty in rural areas ù in urban areas poverty may be restricted to a smaller number," Fr Barr told the meeting.
Fr Barr said 15 per cent of the population lived in squatter settlements, with 20 per cent of these in the greater Suva area.
He said a survey by Save the Children Fiji revealed that 66 per cent of children who drop out of school live in poverty.
He said there were 220 squatter settlements around the country and that the expiry of land leases affected about 25,000 people.
"Fijians and Indo-Fijians are squatters and a study shows that 80 per cent of houses built in the country between 2001 and 2006 were in squatter settlements," he said.
Fr Barr also provided statistics to the NFP members on the percentage of people in full-time employment and the average income of workers.
When contacted yesterday Minister for Social Welfare and Women Dr Jiko Luveni echoed Fr Barr's sentiments.
"People really need to relook spending habits and use money on what they need rather than what they want," said Dr Luveni.
She said impulse-spending as well as spending money without careful consideration of a budget was contributing to poverty.
Dr Luveni also said education was a major factor in decreasing poverty levels.
"Students need to understand the importance of completing their education and while it may sound cliched, education contributes hugely to finding employment," she said.
"The development of skills and talents takes place in our schools and vocational academies and this contributes to the survival coping capacity of future leaders."