‘A budget of opportunity’

Consumer Council of Fiji chief executive officer Premila Kumar. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

THE Consumer Council of Fiji has labeled the 2018-2019 National Budget as “a budget of opportunity” for consumers to improve their quality of life.

Council chief executive officer Premila Kumar in a statement said allocations to health schemes, first home owners, pensioners and the unprecedented $1billion allocation to the education sector meant more consumers had something to look forward to in the coming fiscal year.

Ms Kumar said the $3.5million subsidy for kidney dialysis to stay alive was highly appreciated.

“The council established that a kidney patient in Viti Levu needed a minimum of $39,000 a year to survive whereas a patient in Vanua Levu needed $23,400,” she said.

“Therefore, the subsidy comes as a relief which will greatly reduce dialysis costs for families in need of the treatments. People with household incomes over $30,000 will be offered dialysis for $150 a treatment. Families under the $30,000 threshold will be able to attain the same service for $75 a treatment.

She said the council had been continuously lobbying for the costs of dialysis treatments offered by the Kidney Foundation of Fiji in Suva to be reduced and commended Government for introducing the life-saving subsidy.

“The council is pleased to see the inclusion of other injuries that will be handled by the Accident Compensation Commission of Fiji. Including most vulnerable members such as school children is an excellent move to protect their future if an injury occurs in the school,” she said.

She also welcomed the imposing fines on telecommunication companies in the event they failed to deliver the services as expected and paid for.
“Telecommunications companies now have further incentive to ensure their promised network coverage is maintained and consumers are given opportunity to access the full service they are paying for,” she said.

“The council also welcomes the removal of all EFTPOS fees from debit and credit cards. It has been noted that the banks have been double dipping by charging fees to both merchants and consumers for the use of such cards.

“The findings reveals that only one bank charged the EFTPOS fees to merchants who passed this same charge on to consumers. Hence, the waiver of the EFTPOs fees will ensure adequate consumer protection, as we move towards a cashless economy.”

She said the council noted the increase of the plastic bag levy to $0.20 and looked forward to the enforcement of the new provisions for traders who were not entitled to charge Environment and Climate Adaption Levy(ECAL)/ Service Turnover Tax (STT) and value added-tax(VAT).