March 1, 2016
The National Federation Party calls upon Government to remove Value Added Tax (VAT) and Duty from hardware and electrical items immediately needed by thousands of victims of Tropical Cyclone Winston to rebuild their destroyed homes as well structures essential for the agricultural sector.
This should be done for the rest of this year.
The removal of VAT and Duty from hardware items would reduce the prices of goods like roofing iron, timber, nails, hurricane screws, trapping, cement, screws, electrical wires, electrical fittings and basic lights.
Such a measure would not only help the affected families, but also boost the building industry generally. It will generate employment and contribute towards economic growth. This is apart from Government’s proposed plan to build basic homes for victims.
However this scheme will take many months if not a few years. Many victims of Cyclone Evan in December 2012 did not receive any housing assistance nor help in rebuilding their homes.
We have established that hardware prices are high and unaffordable. The livelihood of victims of TC Winston has been destroyed.
Removal of VAT and Duty from essential hardware and electrical items plus a provision of $5000.00 cash grant from Government to the victims would be a faster and more prudent way of rebuilding homes and putting roof over the heads of families than the basic home building scheme.
This kind of assistance package can be boosted by Fiji National Provident Fund’s quick housing assistance scheme that provides $5000.00 to FNPF members.
We are glad that the FNPF has allowed members in non-disaster declared areas to withdraw a sum of $1000.00 and help their relatives. This sum, albeit small, will nevertheless help relatives to meet their basic needs as they start rebuilding their lives and ultimately overcome this adversity.
Therefore FNPF’s decision to heed our request that was made on Wednesday 24th February on humanitarian grounds is most welcome.
We commend organisations and individuals who have started assisting families in rebuilding their homes. Their task will be made much easier if affordability of the hardware items is facilitated by removal of VAT and Duty.
If this measure requires parliamentary approval instead of ministerial regulation, then parliament can be reconvened within one week under Section 67(5)(b) of the Constitution that empowers the Prime Minister to forward a written request to the Speaker.
We urge Government to expedite this proposal because our victims need help right now to erect a decent shelter and roof over their families.