2018/19 Budget: Curb bad habits; Cheers to a healthier lifestyle

CHEERS!

It is a 15 per cent increase to the cost of your pint of beer or cigarette stick.

With that hopefully curbing the habit and reducing the rise in non-communicable diseases, here’s to a healthier lifestyle with cheaper fruits and vegetables.

Fiji Revenue and Customs Service has reduced the duty from 5 per cent to 0 per cent for apples, carrots, grapes, oranges, pears, mixed vegetables, celery, capsicum, mushrooms, kiwi fruits, asparagus, strawberries, leeks, spinach, apricot, peaches, plum, grapefruit, raspberries, cranberries, pomegranate, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussel sprouts. You can now indulge in some of these fruits, forbidden before because they left gaping holes in our pockets.

The Government has also encouraged the consumption of noodles, there is free import and free fiscal duty on the bulk importation of noodle flavours.
Cheers with a fizzy drink? Perhaps, you may have to think again. The cost will go up as there is a 32 per cent duty on imported carbonated and sweetened drink.

The government has continued its social initiatives such as the free bus fare scheme, food vouchers, free tuition and now there are more funds for scholarships. In fact, there is a $1billion dollar investment in our education sector.

Mothers can stay longer with their babies, now 98 days with maternity leave allocation increasing from 84 days. There is also a five-day paternity leave and five-day family care leave.

Government has also set aside $5million for children born in households with incomes of less than $30,000. The Government announced that $1000 would be deposited for the child in HFC Bank accounts, of which $500 can be accessed immediately and the balance when the child starts school in Year 1.

About 5,000 children would be able to benefit from this but Ministry of Economy officials said how this scheme would be implemented has not been finalised.

There is no direct policy to reduce our traffic congestion but there are plans to improve roads and incentives to have newer second-hand vehicles and taxis on our roads.

The government has also continued its housing policy for first home buyers and in the new year will formalise squatter settlements and general improve the standard of living in these areas. There are plans to improve health services in urban and rural areas.

The 2018-2019 Budget as announced by the Minister of Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum totals $4.6bn to fund all its expenses and policies.

By the way, you can trade that pint for a cup of Twinnings or Earl Grey or imported tea, it will be cheaper than yesterday with duty reduced from 5 per cent to 0 per cent.

But when you go shopping, remember to take a bag or bags with you, the plastic bag levy has increased by 100 per cent to 20 cents.

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