Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry visited Savusavu and Taveuni from 4-7 June to meet with the people and inaugurate a religious function at Delaivuna in Taveuni.
Commenting on his visit, Mr Chaudhry said that people in the North complained bitterly about the rapidly escalating cost of living.
“There is no respite from the hardship we have had to put up with since the devaluation of the dollar and the general downturn in the economy. The situation has been made worse with the devastation caused by Cyclones Mick and Tomas,” complained a casual worker.
A small time market vendor said she was having sleepless nights thinking of how to manage to educate her two school-going children.
“Their daily bus fares come to $11 each – $55 per week. Government assistance is limited to only $3.20 per day – 80c per student each way which comes to only $16 per week for both of them. I have to fork out $39 each week from my meagre earnings to send them to school.
“The rise in bus fares since 2008 has been staggering- three increases in less than two years. It is simply not possible for me to continue to send both of them to school,” she lamented.
Mr Chaudhry said almost all the people he met complained about the ever-increasing costs – electricity, water, bus fares, road levy for vehicle owners, and harassment by LTA officials.
The people of Taveuni were angry that they do not have power, even though Taveuni is the third largest island of Fiji and sustains a population of around 18,000.
Taxi owners both at Savusavu and Taveuni pointed out that they were running at a loss ever since taxi meters were installed as fuel costs were higher than the (meter) fares they could charge. Many are declining to carry passengers on journeys longer than 3 kilometres because it is simply a losing proposition for them.
“Taxi fares are standardised throughout Fiji so we must charge the same as a Suva-based taxi even though we pay 6cents a litre more for fuel.
“Tyres, batteries, spare parts and maintenance costs for vehicles here are at least 20-25% above what people pay in Viti Levu, but the LTA seems to be blind to these realities. Isn’t it ridiculous?” commented a taxi driver.