Vuniwaqa stands ground

Fiji's Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa. Picture: FT FILE

WOMEN, Children and Poverty Alleviation Minister Mereseini Vuniwaqa says she will not turn Government’s $1000 grant for expectant mothers in the 2018/2019 National Budget into a political game.

Her comment comes after National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad labelled the allocation as a gimmick.

In opening the party’s working committee meeting in Suva last Saturday, NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad claimed that providing $500 upon the birth registration of a child and another $500 when the child entered Year 1 in school as part of a parenthood assistance payment was a short-term and short-sighted relief that did not empower those families that needed help.

“This means $1000 will be given to a mother in two instalments over a six-year period,” he said.

“And that too to a mother whose household income is less than $30,000. This means that if both parents are working, their total income should be less than $30,000 or not more than $15,000 each. This is a gimmick. “A mother and child need wholesome support and care. Will this be done with $1000 in six years?”

Prof Prasad said for the first six years, with only $500 in the bank account, it equated to $83.33 per year.

Mrs Vuniwaqa said she would not stoop low and turn the matter into a political issue.

She however said she would love to hear what expectant mothers who would be beneficiaries of the initiative had to say.

“Biman is turning this into a political thing,” Mrs Vuniwaqa said.

“I want to hear what that mother is earning less than $30,000 and who is about to give birth to a baby and who would be expecting a baby in January next year, what they would say about an initiative like this. “We can turn this into a political football, but I’m not going to stoop that low. “These are very important matters for mothers. Let’s not turn it into a political game.”

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