Editorial

Editorial: Equal Distribution Of Lease Money A Big Blessing For Families Of iTaukei Landowning Units

The breakdown was as follows: 2018 – 52,729 minors ($39,175,641); 2019 – 54,911 minors ($49,416,895); 2020 – 54,766 minors ($61,857,076); 2021 – 45,703 minors ($52,097815).
17 May 2022 15:28
Editorial: Equal Distribution Of Lease Money A Big Blessing For Families Of iTaukei Landowning Units
Waiqanake District School Kindergarten students at the school during their graduation ceremony on March 28, 2022. File Photo: Sheenal Charan

Many families of iTaukei landowning units (mataqali) must be counting their blessings to see the regular deposits of lease money being deposited into their bank accounts.

Since Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama first came into office, one of his significant policies benefitting iTaukei landowners is the equal distribution of lease money.

And for the first time it includes all Vola ni Kawa Bula (VKB)-registered members of the mataqali (clan or landowning unit) from birth.

 

Before only adults were paid.

Those below the age of 18, their money was kept in a trust where it accumulates with interest.

When they turn 18, they can access their entitlements.

There are several benefits.

 

The money can be used to finance tertiary education or start a business.

It helps set them up for life.

In Parliament last week, SODELPA MP Jese Saukuru had asked Mr Bainimarama as Minister for iTaukei Affairs to update Parliament on the lease funds held in trust by the iTaukei Land Trust Board for mataqali members below 18 years.

 

In his written response, Mr Bainimarama provided a statistical breakdown on how much has been paid out and to how many recipients.

The figures are staggering and they demonstrate the profound wisdom behind this policy.

Between 2018 and 2021 more than $202 million were held in trust for 208,109 minors.

 

The breakdown was as follows: 2018 – 52,729 minors ($39,175,641); 2019 – 54,911 minors ($49,416,895); 2020 – 54,766 minors ($61,857,076); 2021 – 45,703 minors ($52,097815).

That’s a lot of money that the landowners might not have been able to save themselves.

It gives them, however, a great start in life.

 

They have a pool of money that they can draw from to invest in incoming-generating projects.

It chips away at this saying that they are asset rich but cash poor.

Mr Bainimarama said that since 2017 the funds of members below 18 were invested with HFC Bank with an intention of earning returns.

 

These returns (principal and interest) would then be payable to members once they turn 18 years.

It therefore does not make sense that some politicians are advocating that we roll back this initiative to the old policy of giving the lion share to the chiefs who make up the minority.

Mataqali members in their right frame of mind will not support any move to revert back to the old system particularly when they are reaping the benefits of the equal distribution.

It is fair and equitable.

 

Since 2010, when the change was implemented it has not negatively impacted the chiefly system.

Some had argued that it would weaken the chiefs.

But there was no substance in the claim because the chiefly system is still intact.

 

It’s obvious that some politicians are using the chiefly factor to advance their hollow and cheap political agenda.

But we can’t casually brush aside the tangible benefits of the existing policy because it is working and the evidence is visible.

The figures supplied by Mr Bainimarama speak for themselves.

 

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj



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