News and Comments Thursday 9 May 2013
"Nobody asked for it but it was something I felt I had to do and I got the support of our board of directors," said Mr Pflieger. "Our team is getting rewarded right away and we wanted them to share in the success of the airline. During our restructuring, it was a difficult time and once we addressed those issues we wanted to do something where we were able to give back to our employees."
FLP STATEMENT 'MISLEADING AND INACCURATE'. Nineteen thousand recipients currently assisted under the Family Assistance Program will not be terminated from the welfare programme as claimed by Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry. Social Welfare Minister Dr. Jiko Luveni said this is inaccurate and misleading as this is not happening.
These recipients will be re-certified under the new Poverty Benefit Scheme. Luveni said during this process those whose economic conditions have improved over the years and are now capable of financially supporting their families will be graduated from the program and will be re-programmed for those who need it the most. The Poverty Benefit Scheme with total budget of $22.6 million is expected to assist approximately 13,000 households with a maximum payment of $150 per month and part of this amount consists of $30 food vouchers. Dr. Luveni said that Chaudhry playing on the fears of those who depend on social welfare schemes, for political gain, is irresponsible and unbecoming of a public figure.
THE SOCIAL WELFARE REFORMS. The Minister said Government is currently carrying out major reforms of social welfare programmes that will actually increase coverage of Fiji’s poor population from 3%under the previous system, to about 10% under the new system. “The new system is designed to create the maximum effect with our limited resources. We will target our available resources at those Fijians who need it the most. This will allow Fiji’s social welfare system to better and more widely cover those who meet the criteria and will minimize abuse and fraud."
There are now two main schemes. The Poverty Benefit Scheme, with a total budget of $22.6 million in 2013, will assist up to 13,000 households with a maximum payment of $150 per month. Part of this amount consists of a $30 food voucher. Part of the Poverty Benefit Scheme includes something called the Welfare Graduation Scheme. When assistance is given to a family, the head of the family signs a contract to actively look for income-generating and vocational-training opportunities.
The Poverty Benefit Scheme eliminates the previous vulnerability categories (the elderly, chronically ill and disabled) and directs benefits at the most needy households that will be determined by measures such as property ownership (houses, land), assets and household items.
Government has also established Fiji’s first ever Social Pension Scheme of $30 a month which will benefit more than 9,000 people who are 70 years and over. This scheme will cost $3.2 million in 2013 and enable a significant number of Fiji’s elderly population, who were previously receiving no form of financial support, to live out the remainder of their lives with dignity and respect. To be eligible, individuals must not currently have access to any superannuation or other means of income.
Fijians will also continue to benefit from existing poverty alleviation programmes. One is the Care and Protection Programme, which benefits children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This allowance can be accessed by children up to 18 years, particularly those who come from a single parent family, have a parent in prison, or have foster parents and guardians.
Another scheme is the subsidized bus fare programme, which Government introduced to help ordinary Fijians make ends meet by providing free or subsidized bus fare to school children, the elderly and the disabled. Government has also been providing free text books to school children to help poor families with the cost of education.
MINISTRY STARTS MINIMUM WAGE SURVEY, The Ministry of Labour has started Fiji's first National Minimum Wage Baseline survey. Minister Jone Usamate said the survey would result in the determination and introduction of a national minimum wage, the hourly rate below which all sectoral minimum wage rates must not be allowed to fall. The survey will assess existing wage levels and conditions of employment in the context of the requirements under the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 (ERP) and the ten current Wages Regulation Orders (WROs) against the backdrop of the economy.
There are 6.706 enterprises with 171,865 workers in the country. Out of these enterprises, 4.065 are covered under the Wages Regulation Orders and 2641 are enterprises where workers are employed through individual bargaining. The survey will be completed by the end of this month.
SEETO EXPLAINS: T.U. ACTION WOULD ONLY HURT WORKERS. Interviewed by Radio Australia, Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association president Dixon Seeto says the current ANZ trade union campaign aimed at the Fiji Government will only hurt workers. “If this campaign were successful, all it would do would be to harm the livelihoods of many, many people in Fiji who work in the industry and who are connected to the industry.”
"We are now governed by … wages councils which stipulate minimum wages for workers. There was a hefty increase recently of approximately almost 10%and that greatly increased the take home pay of many of our workers. The thing is these are the minimum wages ...most of the hotels and resorts [pay their workers] at a much higher rate... The other thing the government has done is [raise] the threshold for tax-free income [to $15,000] so that people, especially the lower income levels don’t pay any taxes."
MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD GROUP. A meeting of MSG trade and economic officials will be discussing trade issues this week and their recommendations will be submitted to the Trade Ministers meeting next week. Permanent Secretary for Industry and Trade Shaheen Ali said member countries will benefit from the free movement of goods and services, and already Fiji’s total trade with Pacific Island countries, especially with the MSG countries, has increased to 4.5% in 2010 compared to less than 1% in 2000.
THIS LEOPARD NEVER CHANGES ITS SPOTS. SODELPA, the old re-named (and overwhelmingly ethnic iTaukei) SDL party that governed Fiji from 2001 to 2006 has appointed former SDL government minister High Chief Ro Teimumu as president. It's the old alliance of the iTaukei elite with one or two non-iTaukei thrown in to make it look multi-racial.
NETWORK COVERAGE. Government intends to have a 100% network coverage and will subsidize telecommunication companies that provide coverage in areas where there is at present little or no coverage.
LIFE JACKETS. I wonder whether Allen Lockington's "Safety at Sea" article re-published at the weekend or the death by drowning of Tui Macuata have prompted the action of the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji to get the price of life jackets down from $60 to $18 so that they are more affordable for small boat owners. MSAF Chief Executive Neal Slack says they’re continuing negotiations with suppliers and government to improve the quality and reduce the price of life jackets. That's good news but why did they allow the price to get to $60 before doing something about it?