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Analysis: A Progressive Realisation Of Socio-Economic Rights

Analysis: A Progressive Realisation Of Socio-Economic Rights
July 12
10:00 2018

The 2018-2019 National Budget will have a significant impact on the progressive realisation of social and economic rights and to castigate the budget as mere “freebies” as some politicians have done is an insult to the poor and the marginalised.

Social protection initiatives such as the Poverty Benefit Scheme ($38.1m), the Social Pension Scheme ($47.4m) for the elderly who do not receive any form of government assistance or pension, Food Voucher Programme for Rural Pregnant Mothers and Child Protection Allowance ($9.3m), which provides allowances to children of low-income families, single-parent families and prisoner dependents are significant.

In fostering greater gender equality, maternity leave has increased from 84 to 98 days with the introduction of five days of paternity leave and five days of family care leave.

The introduction of the Domestic Violence Helpline for reporting domestic violence and sexual assault has been further strengthened. 

Not only are these initiatives consistent with our Constitution but also in consonance with our obligations under international law such as ICCPR and CEDAW.

The introduction of the Fiji “Barefoot College” will empower rural-based women through the construction of a vocational college.

The upgrade of informal settlements, the First Home Purchase Programme ($5m) and First Land Purchase Programme ($5m) is consistent with the constitutional provision on the right to housing.

The education sector has received an unprecedented $1bn, which in time will bridge the class divide between the rich and poor. 

The introduction of the Parenthood Assistance Scheme will benefit Fijian mothers whose household income is below $30,000.

Budgetary allocations have been made to upgrade health facilities in the rural and remote areas such as Lodoni, Korovou, Valelevu Health Centre and Lautoka and Labasa Hospitals.

The budget provides for the establishment of kidney treatment centres in Suva and Nadi and the subsidisation of kidney dialysis treatment to those patients whose household income is below $30,000 will benefit from a subsidised rate of $75.

Persons living with disabilities have been further empowered under this budget. 

In materialising its commitment under the national development plan, the Government has allocated $50.8m under the rural electrification project as well as significant investment in waterways, sanitation and the environment.

The renewal of agricultural leases, a major driving factor in accentuating poverty levels, has received an allocation of $7.8m.

Whether it is labelled an “election budget” or as “freebies”, there is one undeniable fact that this budget has made an unprecedented investment in the lives of the poor.

Our collective effort should be directed towards the materialisation of this budget to progressively realise the social and economic rights of ordinary Fijians enshrined in our constitution.

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