Fiji’s falling living standards

  • 24th April 2014
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Fiji Labour Party questions a statement by Peter Thomson, Fiji’s Ambassador to the United Nations that Fiji has done better than most Pacific Island nations in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. 

“In fact, in many aspects of human development, Fiji which once used to be comparatively ahead, has fallen sharply behind,” said Party President Lavinia Padarath.  squatter

Fiji’s overall standard of living has declined sharply. In the UN Human Development Index (HDI) Fiji was raked 46 in 1995. Its ranking fell to 86 in 2008.  The latest data in 2012 indicates it has slipped to 96 out of 187 countries behind Tonga which was ranked 95.

Fiji’s life expectancy had declined from 73 in 2000 to 69 in 2012, less than that for Tonga and Samoa at 73. But this is hardly indicative of the ground reality. According to statistics quoted in a WHO report (2011), Fiji people are dying young –  shockingly only 16 % live beyond 50 and 8% past 60.

Hardly any progress has been made in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in terms of mortality rates. Maternal Mortality rate stands at 26 per 100,000 live births against the MDG target of 10.3. It was 27 in 1990. 

Fiji’s Infant Mortality Rate has remained static at 19 per 1000 live births between 2009 and 2013, three times over the MDG target of 5.6.  The Child Mortality Rate has in fact increased from 19.3 in 1995 to 22.4 per 1000 live births, more than double the MDG target of 9.3. 

Less than half of Fiji’s population have access to safe drinking water whereas in Tonga it is 100% of the population and in Samoa 82%. Besides, we are continually advised to boil tap water before drinking because of threat to water-borne diseases such as typhoid and diarrhoea.  

Fiji lags behind even in terms of adequate sanitation facilities at 72% of the population whereas it is a high of 96% in Tonga and 100 % in Samoa. 

Fiji has a high incidence of non-communicable diseases. Prevalence of hypertension is high at 19% of the population while one-third of all deaths are attributable to heart-related problems. In the 40-59 age group, this is almost half of all deaths. The incidence of diabetes in Fiji is reportedly the third highest in the world, on a per capita basis. 

The 2011 WHO report estimated that the adult mortality rate in Fiji was 2-3 times higher than that of Australia and New Zealand.    

With such appalling health statistics, how can Fiji describe itself as “doing better”? Are we now reduced to comparing ourselves with countries like Tuvalu and the Solomons which are ranked at the bottom of the HDI list?

There is no doubt that Fiji’s political instability and its coup-culture, is the root cause of this sharp decline in our overall standards of living. Indeed, most keys indicators such as HDIs and mortality rates show a sharp decline from what prevailed in the early 1990s.