FLP’s mini manifesto setting out the Party’s main policy platform for the 2014 elections was issued in August last year.
A more substantial document will be released shortly now that the Electoral Decree is out and a date has been set for the 2014 polls.
In formulating its election policies, the FLP’s is guided by its founding principles which are people-focused, social-democratic in nature with emphasis on human rights and freedoms, social justice, equity and equal opportunities.
Our party came into being in 1985 in answer to the then government’s neglect of our ordinary citizens – the urban worker, the rural farming community and small businessmen.
Since then FLP has built up a credible reputation for defending and promoting the rights of workers, farmers, the small businessmen and the poor and disadvantaged in our society. All our election manifestos have reflected this.
However, we are conscious that such social policies can only be achieved in a climate that promotes robust and sustainable economic growth. This means promoting private investment, business activities and agricultural development that will create employment, enhance the quality of life of our people and foster national prosperity.
Economic growth requires political stability and the rule of law to create investor confidence. We must also have in place the necessary infrastructure to facilitate investment and growth.
So our Party policies are basically three-pronged –
1. Economic growth and infrastructure development
2. Social justice and people-oriented policies with the provision of proper and adequate State services,
3. Environmental protection to ensure sustainable growth
In addition, for this election we will put in place measures to reverse and redress some of the more repugnant policies and actions of the regime which have curtailed the fundamental rights and freedoms of our people.
Inter-twined among all this will be special policies to promote gender-equity, youth schemes to provide adequate jobs for our growing young population and policies to preserve and promote our diverse cultural traditions.
- State institutions– the State apparatus at all levels has been highly militarized and politicised. Professional civil servants have been replaced by army officers as Permanent Secretaries, heads of departments, board members and directors. Cultural nepotism is quite pervasive. As is corruption in high places.
There is a total disregard for accountability and transparency and proper procedures that govern the running of the civil service. Government accounts and financial reports have not been published since 2008. Likewise, Auditor General’s reports are no longer published for public scrutiny. Salaries of Cabinet Ministers have been kept secret and until recently was paid not by the Treasury as is customary but through a private Suva accounting firm. One must ask why the secrecy?
State institutions have developed a mindset that is para-military, operating through intimidatory tactics. They are no longer service-oriented or user-friendly, so to speak.
One only has to look at the operations of LTA and FRCA for confirmation of such attitudes. The business community is badly harassed and hounded. Over-regulation by the Commerce Commission has created a stifling business environment.
- Economy – In the past six years or so, the economy has suffered a major setback. Exports have declined considerably with sugar production down 50% compared to 2006 levels, fisheries exports have slumped by 40% and gold by 39% in the past two years.
Growth is now measured in terms of consumption and service activities, fuelled by fiscal measures which are unsustainable over the long term
The regime’s much vaunted income tax relief has been offset by a series of hidden taxes which have pushed up the cost of utilities and doing business in Fiji.The State’s financial position is critical and heavily reliant on overseas loans for capital works. The mounting public debt position, reportedly at $5 billion, is unsustainable in the long term, as more borrowing is underway .
- Social conditions– Current poverty levels of 45% (official statistics) is totally unacceptable for a country rich in natural resources. It reflects the nation’s declining economic conditions, high unemployment levels, low wage rates, the increasingly depressed rural sector with a decline in agricultural activities, particularly cane cultivation, and the escalating cost of living.
The 20% devaluation of the Fiji dollar against the currencies of our major trading partners, has seen an astronomical increase in the price of imports in the past few years, particularly essential food items, putting them out of the reach of the ordinary poor.
With butter now selling at $9 for 500grms, liquid milk close to $4 per litre and powdered milk at $9 plus for a 500 grm pack, cheese at about $12 for a 12-sliced pack, it is little wonder the rate of malnutrition amongst our children is so high.
Despite the growing social distress, the regime announced at the beginning of the year it will withdraw Social Welfare benefits from the majority of its recipients. Last year, it had removed some 400 recipients from its Social Welfare benefits, mainly widows and single parents.
The regime’s decision last year to slice FNPF pension rates by 50% across the board has left over 90% of its current pensioners facing acute financial hardship.
What we have seen is a continuing increase in military expenditure at the expense of health, education and social services
These are the challenges our nation faces ahead of the scheduled general elections. It is against such a backdrop of challenges, that political parties will have to formulate policies and draw up their party manifestos.
Rebuilding and rehabilitating the nation will be a massive task. It will mean restoring not only the rule of law and political stability, but revitalizing the economy, stabilizing State finances and addressing factors that are leading to the increasing impoverishment of our people
The Fiji Labour Party manifesto is being formulated keeping these priorities in mind.
FLP’s mini manifesto
Reversing policies of the regime:
· Re-instate the Great Council of Chiefs disbanded by the regime in March 2012. FLP recognizes that the GCC has been an integral part of the indigenous community for the past 150 years and has played a key role in preserving and protecting indigenous welfare and interests.
· Municipal Councils and Regional Development Boards – Major reforms and initiatives will be undertaken in the municipal councils and regional development bodies to streamline the out-dated municipal authorities and create regional Boards to plan and oversee integrated development in the different regions of the country.
· Sugar Industry Institutions – disbanded by the regime in 2010 will be reinstated to provide to provide growers a voice in the industry and to ensure accountability and transparency in the running of the industry
· Indirect Taxes – FLP will review all hidden indirect taxes, particularly for services where a 15% VAT is already applicable.
To address the problem of escalating poverty and provide relief to our struggling poor, the FLP will:
- Reverse the FNPF pension cuts – As a result of the pension cuts, 90% of FNPF pensioners are now getting a stipend of less than $400 a month which is below poverty line income.
- gradually increase the current contribution rate of 8% so that workers can retire in dignity on a livable income. FLP believes the current rate of 8% is inadequate to ensure this. Indeed, statistics show that 60% of pensioners worldwide, do not receive adequate stipend to live in dignity.
- concurrently introduce measures in full consultation with employer/employee representatives to lift wage rates to acceptable levels.
- Reverse cuts in Social Welfare payouts – to ensure that all disabled and elderly persons living in genuine hardship receive State assistance. We will review the $30 food voucher to reflect inflationary trends.
- Old Age Pension for those over 65 – Since 1987, FLP has been advocating an old age pension for seniors who have no other source of income but have not been in office long enough to introduce this.
- Retirement Age – In 2009 the regime reduced the official civil service retirement age from 60 to 55. FLP will reinstate the retirement age to 60 years.
- Reduce FEA tariff rates – FLP will carry out a comprehensive review of FEA tariff structures both domestic and industrial/commercial with a view to reducing the current high charges and provide relief to consumers
- Relief from VAT – FLP strongly opposed the increase in VAT to 15%. We will extend the list of basic
food and consumer items that are zero-rated under VAT in order to provide adequate relief to low income earners and the poor
Media – FLP will review the Media Industry Development Decree to remove censorship and the
harsh penalties. But to encourage accountability and responsibility, a Media Tribunal will be set
up. Licensing restrictions will be removed and the local/expatriate ownership laws will be
reviewed in the best interests of the country
National Volunteer Service Scheme – to gainfully engage unemployed young people in community
service and vocational training to prepare them for the job market.
Housing – Housing shortage is a major emerging social problem. FLP will see that the State subsidises
low income houses to bring them within the reach of the low income worker.
(i) FLP’s focus will be on the provision of quality education and better equipped schools to meet modern-day requirements
(ii) affordability and high costs are major issues in the delivery of education today. FLP will address these with a view to providing some relief to parents
(iii) rationalizing tertiary education with emphasis on greater vocational training with a view to employment orientation
(iv) removing discriminatory practices in the issuing of scholarships and school resources so that all needy children have equal opportunity to get education
Health Care– FLP has an integrated plan to improve public health care and invest in our hospitals
and clinics. This will include:
(i) introduction of a Medicare Scheme
(ii) public/private ownership contracts to manage major hospitals
(iii) addressing chronic shortage of skilled medical personnel and life-giving drugs
Rural Development– has been a cornerstone of FLP’s policy on national development. We will invest
in, encourage and promote commercial agriculture as a means of providing jobs
to enhance incomes and improve the quality of life of the rural community.
Sugar Industry– FLP will retain focus on sugar production and co-generation activities. To ensure
value-added, ethanol production will be looked at as a bi-product to be used in the
Infrastructure – Labour will explore partnerships with the private sector to upgrade existing roads
and bridges, build new roads to open up the interior and improve traffic congestion
in our cities and towns
Public Utilities (Water, Electricity) – Labour will address current grievances and problems. We will
look at the problem of monopolies and bring in competition to ensure better and
cheaper delivery of services
Environment– FLP will encourage protective and sustainable development to preserve our
eco-system and minimize damage to the environment
Solar energy– will be encouraged through tax incentives to reduce our reliance on costly and
environmentally damaging fossil fuels
Harnessing our Water Resources – FLP will ensure maintenance of our rivers, creeks and shorelines
and to minimize the impact of pollution from industries, use of fertilisers and weedicides
and to address general neglect.