Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Allen reflects on the flooding that is currently affecting the West.

    Take VAT Off Flood Relief

The West is once agan being ravaged by flood waters. I pity the people who have been affected. Just when they were recovering the floods hit us again.

Some people will be wondering what is happening. In the past we would be hit by one hurricane that would last for about four hours and that's it. We wait till the next year and brace again. But this is not even a hurricane and it has caused more damage and grief than a cyclone or hurricane.

Our finances will now be stretched even further and the big companies and organisations that have given thousands of dollars may not be able to give once again.

In 2009 we received around 50 containers   from donors in Australia and New Zealand. In the January floods there was none, because Customs was levying VAT on the relief supplies. Some containers were returned to the senders because no  one wanted to pay VAT on goods that were given free and to be distributed free. And a few are still sitting in shipping companies yards waiting to be auctioned in the government auction. Even the donors didn't want the goods back because they had received it from many different people and it would just go back and sit in the containers or destroyed. As a Customs broker I know about this.

The people in Fiji can do with some relief and I plead with government to zero rate flood supplies so that the donors can once again assist. I know of many people who want to send flood relief goods but will not because there is a 15% VAT on the value of the FOC goods.

I have been told that this flood is worse than the last one, so, can we zero rate relief supplies please. Our people really need all the help. If government insists on colleting VAT then not many will send supplies. Anyway, the very same organisations and have been pouring money in to the Prime Ministers relief Fund and we ask them to pay VAT.

So I hope someone sees the light and does something about this.

Mother Teresa said – Give till it hurts. But we will soon run out of things to give.  Our friends from across the seas are ready to give. But spare them the VAT please. 

                       New Stategy Needed

Once again we wake up in Lautoka to torrential rain and strong winds that has lasted about 12 hours. The radio stations have mentioned that parts of Ba and other places are flooded.

In Lautoka, as I write, Navutu is underwater and all storm drains are flooded. Creeks are flooded. Parents are all wondering if schools will close. Teachers are also wondering is they should go to school or not.  They risk a pay cut if they do not go to school if there is no message from the top.

I believe a new strategy has to be implemented by the Ministry of Education to empower the Commissioner Western to exercise his authority and call for the closure of schools in the West if he sees that the weather is really bad, like this morning. He should not have to convene a meeting to decide, as a parent and a strategist he should be given the authority to decide.

Some parents will send their children to school bad weather or not, the news should be out by 6 am because many parents leave at 630 am and take their children with them. By 7 am many children will already be on their way to school.

                              Gossip is a Crime

I looked up the Crimes Decree 2009 Decree No. 44 of 2009 and it does not say anything about gossip being a crime.

Could the police clarify please. Because a report in Fiji Times Friday, March 16, 2012 says that a group of women vendors in Labasa were yesterday told to refrain from gossiping because it was against the law.

In her formal address, police constable Mere Mocetoka told the women that anyone was liable to spend one year in prison if found gossiping or making bad remarks about another person.


Time for the Senior Service to get serious! said…
Who would ever imagine that Golf Tournaments were placed ahead of inflatable dinghies with outboard engines? Now why would that be? One outboard engine last year was offered for debatable sale when it had been donated for a useful purpose. This under the very nose of FICAC and the Nadi Police Force. (Neither may say they were not well informed).

How mad, bad, foolish and delinquent this all seems in the face of returned Killer Floods. No one seems adequately equipped or prepared to assist the helpless. There is no excuse whatsoever for this. Plenty of past experience - go back to Hurricane Oscar February 1983. No mobile phones then but we were able and prepared to handle one of Fiji's most fearsome hurricanes with relatively little loss of life. Nadi Airport was closed then for four consecutive days. How was this achieved? People with skills and knowledge leading from the Front. Who is leading from the Front now?

Time for the Senior Service to show their skills and to use their boats - inflatable dinghies with reliable outboards and all the necessary rescue gear. There are people on housetops and hanging on to trees who need immediate attention. And where are the Naval Cadets? The Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides? We are waiting for them in Nadi and the West NOW!
Guran said…
What is the reason for VAT on donations? It doesn't make sense and is a major source of discouragement to those of us who wish to send needed items in bulk to those affected by the floods. Would appreciate an answer from anyone who knows; or knows of ways to get around this VAT thing.
Allen said…
Apparently unscrupulous people were using the relief supply to also bring in their COMMERCIAL goods and thus government slapped VAT on all. But it was to the detriment of those who needed supplies.

I hope they reconsider VAT.
Anonymous said…
As an Australian DONOR of goods to Fiji during the last floods in Fiji - I was appalled when I heard that the Government was leying VAT on the goods we sent to help out the Fijian people.I for one will NOT be sending any more donations to Fiji - when you want to help the people but you get cut off at the knees by inefficient Government agencies - I would rather give my donations to another country that will not take advantage of their own peoples plight Perhaps when you get a REAL elected leader back in power I may change my mind.
Anonymous said…
@ Time for the Senior Service

Hang in there Mate. Why cant our traditional "friends" the Kiwi's and Ozzies put aside their political differences for a moment, and come help us Fijians by sending their helos and all their fancy hardware that they use to bash the Taliban etc, to help their neighbours?

No they wont! Thats politics.

We Fijians will never kiss ass just to get John Keys or Julia Gillard on side. Unlike the Maoris or Aborgines in Oz, we Fijians were never taken by the sword!

Floods, tsunamis, or even threats of invasion by Ausralia and NZ (promoted by the likes of Qarase) will never break our spirit. We stand free!!!! We are kai Viti
Anonymous said…
@ Australian donor to Fiji

Your help is so couched in conditional political terms that we in Fiji think you should go shove it!

Either you give it from the heart or F... Off.

We dont need you! Take your goods to Bali (where they are trying to wipe you off the map).

We in Fiji are are a proud people. We dont want you
romeo said…
@ Australian Donor to Fiji

Yah mate, your Goverment spending so much money and surrendering the lives of so many of your own sons to an unwinnable war that is driven by America, and yet you come here and try an convince that what your doing is right?

Keep your money. We rather remain poor and free!
Anonymous said…
Free? You are in hock to everyone! The gall of some to tell others to shove their aid when it was the regime you apparently all deserve that decided to levy ,VAT on donations. Apparently , Australians , who have had their fair share of natural disasters, try and help but typically from the misplaced arrogance of some, then expect us to pay again. As Croz is loathed to actually hold the regime to any standards of governance and is more than willing to explain away this incompetence of applying a tax to free items given by well meaning people who have absolutely no obligation to Fijians at all, perhaps he may ask the military council how they could let it happen? In case it matters, I gave nothing. I have given nothing as long as the regime is in power, given they have unfettered power these past year to address flood mitigation and as they are affected, never seem to bothered about helping out anyway. Perhaps when QE barracks is flooded we may see them open the purse strings.
Anonymous said…
It seems Fijians aren't suffering enough to actually want to change anything, each year a flood or three, and each year nothing changes. You get the regime you deserve I suppose...BTW any Chinese donations yet ? or maybe just a swell speech providing moral support. Yeah cheap.
As Croz would Say.... said…
@anonymous x2

Why don’t you look at facts, before getting on your high horse. The 2 biggest donor countries in January of this year were Australia and NZ. They had the sense not to give the money to Frank’s personal pocket money fund but gave it directly to the Red Cross and other aid agencies.

With regards to equipment certainly 1 or maybe both sent aircraft on a reconnaissance mission and gave the information to DISMAC.

Only yesterday Bob Carr has said Australia will give whatever help the Government asks for. There were no conditions. One thing I know he will not give any money directly to the regime and that is just good sense as no one knows where that money will end up.

Where have Fiji’s new best buddies been? I have not seen any help from China. They gave $40,000 to PM’s fund that is 1% of the efforts of Australia and Fiji.

When times are tough you know who your real friends are and Australia and NZ have come up trumps once again. They are friends to Fiji and its people, just not friends to military junta run by a thug.
Jimmy The One said…
To the relevant "Anonymous" :

The VAT was not instituted by the regime. It was alive and well prior to 2006. I believe it was put in place by the Rabuka government. Sorry you had to build your political comment (at a time when people should be thinking otherwise) on an erroneous base.
Anonymous said…
'Fijians were never taken by the sword.' No, you remained docile and surrendered everything while Bainimarama kept his sword sheathed. All he had to do was to send out his men with guns to wave but no ammunition.

Fiji free? Perhaps as a rape victim is free, unlike a hooker who gets paid.

Your false pride is the height of arrogance and stupidity. When others toss you a lifeline, you cast yourself adrift.
Anonymous said…
@Jimmy the One, i don't think anyone claims that VAT is the regime's fault but applying it to aid certainly is their fault which even they have now accepted, but only after they messed it up and shot themselves in the foot.Where do they get their advice?
The Association of Banks on Vacation? said…
Now that we have achieved a sensible decision to remove VAT from donated Flood Relief, there is another bone of contention.

We are told that in the USA, it is illegal for any bank not to open after three days of closure. A pretty sound piece of legislation if it is so?

For banks to be closed (like the Suva SPCA) over a full four day period suggests a nation not serious about conducting commerce.

It also suggest a dereliction of duty when a National Disaster has been declared and people are desperate to draw cash or to make payments for essential services.

Surely, we can do better than this? BSP/ANZ/BOB/WESTPAC - what do you collectively have to say on this, please?

A submission was made yesterday to the Lautoka Chamber of Commerce which had cleverly managed to have all shops opening on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday between the hours of 8 - 6pm to afford some relief to the Fiji Public in the West. But where is the Association of Banks? Gone on Vacation? in a declared state of National Disaster.
Lesley said…
We are a group of Aussies who are sending money to Fiji based Aussies, for food parcels, taking advantage of the EXCELLENT decision to lift VAT on relief - and collecting for a container, bringing with free air freight allowances, etc. Our govt should be ashamed to not be helping more - and as long as I can control our relief effort, we're happy to help.

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