SOCIAL advocate Father Kevin Barr says the 2014 budget is the first "people-centred" and "pro-poor" budget for many years.
Speaking as a panellist on the topic "Implementation of Socio-Economic Rights'" at the Attorney-General's 15th annual conference, he congratulated government on its initiatives and said the generous allocations for education would bring a radical change in parents' ability to send their children to school.
In addition, he said the increased budget for housing should help to provide more affordable low cost housing.
At the same time, Fr Barr said he hoped these assistance would continue as Fiji still had a long way to go "if we are to adequately address the basic socio-economic needs of so many people in Fiji today."
He highlighted "some real life stories" to bring home the situation of many people in Fiji in terms of socio-economic rights. A few years ago we did some research for UNDP on household poverty throughout the country.
"What surprised and shocked us was to hear that in a number of households the parents only ate a decent meal every second day so that their children could have a proper meal every day."
Fr Barr also noted a researcher for ESCAP in Bangkok had noted the lack of sufficient affordable low-cost housing in Fiji.
"He recorded of all the houses put up in Fiji between 2001 and 2006 80 per cent had been put up in squatter settlements. Most serious poverty researches in Fiji today estimate that at least 35 and 40 per cent of our population live below the poverty line."
Fr Barr said People's Community Network, where he works as a consultant, had over the past 2 years taken 200 children from 14 settlements out of child labour and put them back to school.
"Of course they are in child labour mostly because they help to supplement the income of their poor families who are struggling to make ends meet."