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Akbar: Stop Using Poor as Political Football

The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar, has appealed to politicians not to use the poor to score political points. She said all parties should support the
22 Oct 2014 14:12
Akbar: Stop Using Poor as Political Football

The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar, has appealed to politicians not to use the poor to score political points.

She said all parties should support the Government’s comprehensive measures to alleviate poverty rather than using disadvantaged Fijians as a political football.

The minister said she was especially disappointed with recent comments by the leader of the National Federation Party, Biman Prasad, who seemed determined to lay the blame for poverty in Fiji at the Government’s feet.

“During the election campaign, an NFP television advertisement falsely claimed that the level of poverty in Fiji was 45 per cent. Then in his maiden speech to Parliament last week, the NFP leader said it was one third or 33 per cent.

“He doesn’t seem to know what the true figure is but that doesn’t stop him from trying to score cheap political points.” she said.

The minister said that contrary to Dr Prasad’s claim, a World Bank survey had found that poverty in Fiji had actually declined from 35 per cent in 2003 to almost 30 per cent in 2009.

“In the five years since then, we have not only instituted a range of poverty alleviation measures but the Fijian economy has entered a period of sustained growth and job creation that is bound to have led to a further decline.

“So his figures appear to have been plucked out of thin air and don’t reflect the true position,” she said.

Ms Akbar said being an economist who evidently prided himself on his expertise, the NFP leader knew full well that poverty alleviation required a holistic approach and there were no easy answers.

“Dr Prasad’s main policy contribution during the election campaign was his proposal to slash VAT to 10 per cent, which would have deprived Government of almost $300 million in revenue and damaged our ability to assist the poor.”

She said the Bainimarama Government had done more than previous governments to tackle the root causes of poverty. It was doing so with long term solutions rather than quick fixes that were more than a gimmick than anything else.

“Such measures as our education revolution and free schooling are giving Fiji’s poor the leg-up they need to climb out of poverty.

“Coupled with a wider social security net, housing assistance and cheaper electricity, water and medicine for low incomes earners plus a low inflation rate, this holistic approach is making a real difference to the lives of ordinary people and deserves to be supported by all sides of politics,” she said.

 

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