Island News

Are we all poor

Written By : MELA TUILEVUKA. So much has been said about the issue of poverty this week. A landmark publication of the book ‘The Quantitative Analysis of Poverty of Fiji’
26 Jul 2008 12:00

image Written By : MELA TUILEVUKA. So much has been said about the issue of poverty this week. A landmark publication of the book ‘The Quantitative Analysis of Poverty of Fiji’ was also launched this week by Professor Wadan Narsey one of the brightest and distinguished economist in the country.
The 155-page book contains graphs and figures depicting the level of poverty in the country.
But does these statistics and figures reveal the true picture of poverty on the ground.
No offence to Proffessor Wadan Narsey, I believe that we are all poor in our own ways.
Coming to work on Wednesday morning by bus, I experienced something that got me thinking ‘are well all poor or are we almost heading that way?’.
I caught the Shore Buses Limited bus to get to my work place in Walu Bay. People flocked in to get a seat, yet I didn’t see an old Fijian man walk past everyone to be the first one in the bus.
I thought he was going to pay his fare to Lami or other routes the bus was destined to go, but it wasn’t the case.
This old man waited for all the seats to be filled by passengers eager to get to work on time when he started to beg, beginning from the back seat.
I had just taken my seat in the front after paying my fare of 50 cents when I felt a tap on my shoulder and a hand reaching out in front of me.
Having paid my fare and having a few coins to spare I gave the beggar 50 cents.
Ironically, some students of a school in Lami who were making their way to their seats after paying their fare, thought there was another checker in the bus collecting their fares.
A student had reached into his ‘sulu’ pocket thinking that he had to pay his fare again after a group of girls were giggling at him, than he got the drift of what the beggar was doing.
“If I had given any money to that man, I would have to walk home after school,” I could hear the student say as he walked right to the back to take his seat. The lady sitting beside me also could not even spare a cent to give the old man.
“I have a tight budget with my fares,” she whispered to me.
Don’t hate her for not giving a cent because someone, anyone or everyone will travel down the road that the old man is traveling that morning – begging.
I watched the old man walk out the bus I was in and boarded the next one doing what he does best to earn a living.
As I watched him in the next bus, it got me thinking – at least he is honest enough to come out begging rather than stealing.
I also thought of the lady seated next to me and her words. Her words may have been a whisper and she may not have said much to me during the journey, but it spoke volumes.
The lady wanted to give, could have given something to the old man, but she did not have enough or she just has enough to get by.
I wondered how long will she be able to get by or may be one day she will be like that old man begging in the bus.
I also went along with a cousin of mine to watch the Secondary School Music Festival 2008 at the National Gymnasium three nights ago.
It struck a chord when the student mass choir sang the song ‘We are the World’ and after hearing the students sing their hearts out one line of the song stuck with me.
“…………..there are people dying, you know its time to lend a hand…”
Going back to Professor Wadan Narsey’s book which states that 147,000 Fijians, 109,000 Fiji-Indians and 8000 from other races live under the poverty line in the years 2002-2003.
Proffessor Wadan Narsey said two areas in need of poverty alleviation attention are the northern and western divisions.
This is just a number, a figure – the real story of poverty cannot be given just a number because whether we like it or not the issue of poverty is quite bigger than one can imagine.

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