Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry condemns as cruel and grossly insensitive the regime’s decision to cut off most of the 19,000 recipients of its Family Assistance Scheme from the welfare programme. This will, in effect, mean sentencing them to extreme hardship and indignity.
According to a statement issued on Wednesday by Director Social Welfare, Rupeni Fatiaki, the cuts will extend to the unemployed who may have assets and property. The decision comes at a time of rising unemployment and growing poverty – a state of affairs for which the regime must take full responsibility.
Last year the regime removed over 500 families from its list of recipients for State assistance. Now the guillotine is to come down on the rest.
Mr Chaudhry said while much-needed assistance to the poor is being systematically cut off, Ministers are paying themselves super salaries, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds are being frittered away each year on overseas jaunts and the exuberant lifestyles of the Prime Minister, his Cabinet and some senior civil servants.
“There is, of course, absolutely no accountability and transparency in the regime’s handling of public moneys,” he said.
Political instability and total disregard for the rule of law have contributed directly to the economic decline Fiji is facing today. Private investment is at its lowest, exports have fallen , our dollar is depreciating,
thousands of jobs have been lost and living costs have escalated phenomenally.
Poverty today stands at almost 50% of the population compared to the pre-coup level of about 35%. The situation has worsened following FNPF’s illegal and arbitrary decision last year to cut pension rates by 50% across the board, sentencing almost 90% of pensioners to extreme financial hardship in their old age.
The planned cut off in family assistance on such a massive scale will undoubtedly add to growing social problems such as crime, child prostitution, human trafficking, domestic violence, child abuse and suicide in an increasingly frustrated society.
“The worst is still to come,” Mr Chaudhry warned.