The truth about the high cost of living and the lack of jobs

Biman: Families feeling the pinch

By Nasik Swami
The Fiji Times. Monday, March 13, 2017

MANY young families in the country are struggling to make ends meet.

That’s the view of National Federation Party (NFP) leader Professor Biman Prasad after the results of the Tebbutt-Times poll which revealed the cost of living and employment as the top issues ahead of the 2018 polls.

The cost of living was ranked the number one issue by 46 per cent of those polled and employment ranked second by 32 per cent of respondents.

According to Prof Prasad, the polls pointed out that about 50 per cent of the voters were concerned with the rising cost of living and unemployment.

He said the FijiFirst Government in its manifesto during the 2014 General Election promised to keep value added tax (VAT) rate to zero on basic food items.

“Yet in last year’s budget, they raised the VAT on basic food items from 0 to 9 per cent, directly hitting the low income people.

“To make matters worse, they have increased duties on many items including fees, fines and charges, as well as increase in sea port charges, the cost of which is directly passed on to the consumers.”

He claimed all promises of free medicine, free water and free electricity put to the people before the last election had fallen flat and many of the lower income people who were supposed to benefit from this have not because of poor implementation.

“The second issue of unemployment with low wages has hit young and qualified people.

“The Government thinks that more job advertisements are a sign of increasing employment, far from the truth, many of the advertisements are replacement job advertisements.

“Many graduates coming out from tertiary studies are finding it very difficult to find jobs. Even when they find jobs they are low paid.”

“For example, a young person who completed his degree in accounting last year has started with an annual salary of $10,000.

“His net pay is around $177 per week.”

Prof Prasad said with this salary, the young person is also required to pay his TELS loan, which was more than $20,000.

“Many employers are also taking advantage of weak union representation and lack of unions to pay below poverty level wages to young and qualified people.”

He said the NFP in government would make it top priority to address the issues of rising cost of living, unemployment and low wages and salaries.