Short Briefs: More Apologies, Charter Progress, Somare, Poverty, IMF Visit
(+) Nadroga/Navosa Apologizes. Noting that the province was the first to oppose the People's Charter, Chairman of the Provincial Council Ratu Sakiusa Makutu, speaking in Sigatoka yesterday, asked forgiveness from the Government. Ratu Makutu said he has changed his stance with his people behind him and he will now support the People's Charter. Meanwhile, the Turaga Na Kalevu said they are now awaiting word from the government on the proposal to separate the two provinces.
(+) Gau Apologizes. The villagers of Lovu, Gau Island, presented a traditional apology to the Prime Minister as he started his tour to the Lomaiviti Group yesterday.The villagers said they now support the government’s initiatives and the People’s Charter.
(+) People’s Charter Meeting Underway. The third National People’s Charter Advisory Council (NPCAC) meeting, delayed because of Hurricane Tomas, is currently underway in Suva. It will be reviewing reports submitted by various ministries into their operations.
NPCAC Chairman Josefa Serulagilagi said “What we will now do is go down and do physical checks based on the reports to ensure that whatever has been given in paper is really happening on the ground.” He said these are all part of Government reforms.
(o) Somare and Bainimarama. PNG PM Sir Michael Somare offered PM Bainimarama some support as he continued his New Zealand tour. Asked about the media “crackdown” in Fiji, he said it could be taken in two different ways. The media must "try to really interpret what the real thinking in the minds of Island people are and ... look at things in a different way than you in the West look at it ... you’ve got to understand the Pacific people ... and try and translate and report on what they believe.”
Asked about elections, Sir Michael said: “He's made up his mind, he’s going on 2014 ... I’m hoping that the time will come when he’ll come good and tell us when the elections are going to be held.”
Speaking of the Melanesian Spearhead Group that refused to follow the Forum initiative to expel Fiji, he said people said the MSG had failed, but "we kept the dialogue going. I mean I can pick up a phone, talk to Bainimarama tonight if I want to, he can talk to me on the phone."
(o) How Many Live in Poverty? Hassan Khan, CEO of the FCOSS NGO, says the notional poverty figure of 45% (360,000 people) mentioned at a Poverty Eradication Unit-World Bank workshop last week is dated. It was based on a still to be published Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) held in 2008-2009. Since then Hurricane Tomas and rising prices have made the situation worse. Khan's guestimate is that 500,000 live below the Poverty Line.
Ideally, HIES are held every ten years. The last survey to be published was held in 2002-03 (urban) and 2003-4 (rural), analyzed by Wadan Narsey and published in 2006. The survey was based on a geographic and stratified sample of about 5,000 households, and dollar values were imputed for subsistence produce. The basic needs poverty line (BNPL) differs between rural and urban communities, and in the past was set by an government-NGO advisory committee. I will write more on the new survey when (and if) I can sight a copy. If you can't wait and would like some more wild guesses, and accusations of government complicity, you know where to look.
(o+) The IMF Mission Team in Suva from 7-21 April discussed Fiji's economic reforms (and possible IMF financial support under a stand-by arrangement) with Government, donors, private sector and public enterprise representatives. The Mission "greatly appreciated the authorities' openness and the frank discussions of the economic challenges faced by Fiji."
The mission, that included World Bank and the Asian Development Bank representatives, commended Government for the manner in which fiscal and monetary policy was conducted to counteract the severe effects of the global financial crisis and the massive destruction to infrastructure after the January 2009 floods. They noted that despite a 7 percent reduction in revenue, Government maintained its deficit within the targeted level. They also commended the timely action to protect foreign reserves through devaluation.
The IMF will continue to discuss policy measures required to ensure fiscal sustainability and specific structural reforms to underpin Fiji's medium-term growth while protecting the vulnerable. It looks for further progress toward these ends to ensure external stability and help catalyze donor support for Fiji's reform efforts.