#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Citizens could end up going hungry

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Citizens could end up going hungry

Fiji's coup culture is costing it billions of dollars and unless democracy is restored the country risks hunger and further impoverishment, a leading Fiji economist and former shadow finance minister warned yesterday.

Days after Fiji-born Australian academic Brij Lal was arrested and deported from Fiji amid a diplomatic row, fellow academic Wadan Narsey told The Australian dwindling foreign investment in the Pacific nation was undermining its food production chain.

In speaking to The Australian yesterday, Professor Narsey, an economist at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji's capital Suva, risks arrest and detention for criticising the regime of military-installed prime minister Frank Bainimarama.

"Fiji's GDP fell almost 7 percent in 2007, the year following the coup that brought Commodore Bainimarama to power," Professor Narsey said.

"The biggest threat to Fiji's food security is the lack of investor confidence in Fiji, and that's a direct result of the coups."

Every indication was that poverty -- especially in rural areas -- was increasing, worsened by the rapid rise in the cost of living following the recent 20 per cent devaluation of the Fiji dollar, he said.

"The urban poor particularly are at severe risk of deteriorating nutrition because the costs of basic foods such as rice and flour had risen sharply, while their incomes had either stagnated or been reduced," Professor Narsey said.

A fellow USP academic -- who would not be named -- told The Australian yesterday that a pall of censorship had fallen over the country, and a handful of academics critical of the regime had been verbally "silenced".

"People are risking their safety if they speak out. Under emergency decrees, the military have arrest and detention powers. People are scared," the academic said.

Those making even well-meaning comments against the regime's policies were likely to be taken to a military camp and subjected to abuse like (Australian National University professor) Brij Lal, the academic said.

"While Australian citizens may be generally safe, Fiji citizens face a real risk of physical violence," the academic said.

Fiji's four coups since 1987 will have cost $10 billion in GDP by 2014, according to a research paper by Professor Narsey on rural development, obtained by The Australian. After the economy stagnated last year, early indications were there would be a further decline of 1-2 per cent in GDP again this year, he said.

Professor Narsey, an MP and shadow minister from 1996 until 1999, said he had presented his findings to the government and the media, but had suffered a media blackout.

The urban working class -- who don't have access to food gardens -- faced "sheer hardship" in obtaining nutritious and adequate food, unless local and foreign investment in business partnerships increased, he said.

Professor Narsey called on the military government to convene "a genuine political dialogue" with all political and social leaders.

The tragedy in Fiji was that total censorship of the media meant that the military government could not even be given public opinions that might help them and the country, Professor Narsey said - By Guy Healy The Australian/Pacific Media Watch)


Anonymous said...

Fiji people starving? Come on! Warden Narsey sounds like yet another hysterical academic. Yes, we all know there's poverty in Fiji and it's getting worse. But it was getting worse before Frank's coup.

Where the Prof is right is when he says the urban poor are disadvantaged because they don't have access to teiteis. But it would be more accurate to use the word malnourished to describe their plight.

Conjuring up images of an African style famine when we all know it's not like that in Fiji is simply counterproductive.

The truth is lots of people in Fiji are impoverished. and malnourished, and genuinely need help. But Warden Narsey isn't doing them any favours by resorting to exaggeration for political purposes.

Anonymous said...

@ 1st Anon.

Understand & appreciate what your saying - where your coming from but keep in mind what Mugabe did to a country that was once touted as the food bowl of Africa? Things turn ugly no Kai Viti will ever starve true - Kai Dia?

Anonymous said...

@ Anon
The truth always hurts! This Govt will punish anybody who is telling how things really are.

Anonymous said...

And how do you think this governemnt thinks that the urban poor can live on tea and cassava...unreal....time to get real...this governemnt is making the situation even worse. We were malnourished before but now its getting much worse, then what kind of food will the urban poor resort to live???

Anonymous said...

Herein possibly lies the seeds of yet another potential humanitarian disaster for Australia & NZ?