Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Pro-poor regime now strangulating people
The interim regime called itself pro-poor when it handed down the 2009 Budget, but it's now strangulating ordinary and poor people with the high prices for goods and services it's imposing on the country.
The interim Cabinet yesterday approved a 30% increase to bus fares. The flagfall for taxis has also increased 50 cents. The fare of $1 from 6am to 10pm will jump to $1.50 from tomorrow and that of $1.50 from 10pm to 6am will rise to $2. The waiting charge of 10 cents for every two minutes will now apply every minute.
The 30% but fare increase also applies to sudents.
The regime has withdrawn the 21.9% subsidy previously given to bus operators and imposed the exorbitant fare increases on consumers. But there has been no pay increase for almost three years - especially in the public sector.
Pay increases in the private sector, especially for ordinary workers, has increased between 2 and 5 percent - compared to 30% increase in fares and more than 20% increase in cost of other goods and services due to devaluation.
Today, the interim Cabinet approved a 15% increase to electricity charges adding $2 million annually to the coffers of Fiji Electricity Authority. This is in direct contravention of the powers bestowed on the Commerce Commission, which is responsible for determining increases or decreases to utility charges.
90% of consumers will be affected by the increase and will end up paying between $9 and $15 more per month, depending on their elecritcity usage.
The increase in electricity charges will inevitably be passed onto consumers by businesses, meaning they will pay an extra 15% for goods apart from paying 15% more for their power bills.
The interim government says its decision was made after long deliberations with stakeholders.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Works, Sainiana Waqainabete, has been quoted as saying: “In fact, they (bus operators) had requested a 20 per cent increase and we’ve tried very hard to assist. We’ve ascertained that they’re going through hard times,” Waqainabete said.
She says an increase in the price of fuel and the recent devaluation also had a part to play in the bus and taxi fare increases.