Thursday, April 22, 2010
Govt aid dashed as report says half a million Fijians living below poverty line
Speaking to Levuka communities, he said: “We urge members of the public to work hard. Stop relying on handouts. This Government will only see that our roads, water, education and other developments are done to move us forward.”
The message is evidence that Fiji is struggling and comes as the world is told by Fiji's Council of Social Services (FCOSS) that about half a million people are now living below the poverty line, far more than official figures have suggested.
The latest governmental survey on income and expenditure is yet to be released publicly, but it reportedly indicates 45% of the population - 360,000 people - are struggling.
TV One News is today quoting FCOSS director Hassan Khan as saying that at least 60% of Fijians were poverty stricken, their numbers swollen by natural disaster and soaring prices.
"There (are) official figures that (say) 20% of people are in the higher-income bracket, and (another) 20% are in the middle-income," Khan said on Thursday from his office in Suva.
"So, in the lower income bracket, under $FJ15,000, ($NZ10,800) - which is the poverty line of the government - you have the rest of the people."
The notional poverty level of 45% was revealed at a workshop on Tuesday and reported by the Fiji Times.
The survey research, conducted by the Poverty Eradication Unit of the prime minister's office in 2008 and 2009, was already outdated, he said.
The category-four Cyclone Tomas, which thrashed Fiji last month, put "a lot of people in very risky and vulnerable areas" and poverty numbers had also been boosted by the rising cost of living, he said.
"These are things that impact on our people severely," he said.
In a bid to improve living conditions, Fiji's government dedicated $FJD1.5 billion ($NZ10.9 million) to poverty eradication programs between 2000 and 2008.
"But how much has been used? We don't have any figure or any report on that," Khan said.
He said plans for a thorough evaluation of poverty had been slated for the past four years, but the Fijian government had told FCOSS "figures are not ready".
"So you wait and wait," Khan said.
Lieutenant Colonel Pio Tikoduadua, the permanent secretary for Fiji's self-appointed prime minister, admitted it was "difficult ... to measure the impact of all this assistance that the government is providing to the people".
He told the workshop the government aimed to have only 15% of the nation living in poverty by 2020.-TVOne News and Fiji Government Online