Putting Fiji's Cost of Living in Perpective


Complaints about the cost of living are not unique to Fiji as the poster on the left demonstrates.

With the cost of living likely to be an important influence on how people vote in September, I thought it would be useful to put some of Fiji's costs in perspective by drawing comparisons with New Zealand costs.

An overall comparison, of course, would show NZ to have a much higher standard of living than Fiji. Its average disposable wage after tax, for example, is over five times higher, and its pensions and social welfare system is more highly developed. NZ's minimum wage is over NZ$15 an hour and Fiji's a mere F$2. There can be no doubt that poverty, however defined, is far more extensive than in NZ.  Fiji is not a "First World" country.

But none of these things are in dispute in Fiji's election campaign. What is in dispute, if the SODELPA campaign is anything to go by,  is the "unreasonable" price of food items and, by implication,  Government's assumed mismanagement of the economy.

Official figures suggest a 60% increase in Fiji food price since 2006, at least partly caused by the 20% devaluation of the Fiji dollar. Mick Beddoes says food prices have risen by over 80% during the same period.  I have no way to determine which estimate is correct, but world food prices have have not been stationary since 2006.  I put the question of the increase in NZ food prices to the most shrewd supermarket shopper I know, my wife. Her off-the-cuff answer was 40%  and much more for some items.

Figure 1
The graph (Figure 1) compares the cost, in Fiji dollars, of ten food items in Fiji and New Zealand. The Fiji data were obtained from www.numero.com, an international specialist on food and other cost comparisons, from multiple sampling at Suva's supermarkets. For the NZ data, I checked the Numbero NZ data, based on Auckland,  against the most recent weekly New World Supermarket mailer and I used their prices if they were cheaper. No "specials" are included in the graph, and the chicken breasts noted were boneless and skinless.  Beer, of course, is not bought in 500ml quantities, and I've no doubt cheaper beer, and chickens, can be bought in both countries. Numbero's task was to compare like with like normal prices. It should also be noted that June is winter time in NZ when prices for fruit and vegetables are much dearer than at other times in the year.

Now for the comparison: the food prices graph shows a mix of prices, but of the ten items listed only two were dearer in Fiji. I would put this down to the higher cost of imports, the economy's smaller scale,  restrictions on the powers of the  Consumer Council,, and most of all to the lack of competition compared with New Zealand.  Others may see the sinister hand of an ineffective government but if this were the case, New Zealand, with its generally higher prices, must have an even more ineffective government,

I also compared the costs of rent for one- and three-bedroom dwellings, electricity, water and garbage collection, presuming the Fiji figures do not include informal housing, which would show Fiji costs even lower. The Fiji and NZ Monthly Charges graph (Figure 2) shows the results.  In all cases,  the NZ household pays more.

Figure 2
One last statistic. Numbero put the Fiji (Suva) average disposal monthly wage/salary after tax at F$1,070, and the NZ equivalent, as I noted in opening is over five times higher,  at F$5,722 and F$5,788 in Auckland. But this is income; not expenditure and the cost of food. With a higher income you can buy more food, but it will not alter its cost. I suspect income inequality is far greater in Fiji, and the "average" household much poorer. But purchased food in Fiji is cheaper than it is in New Zealand.

So there you have it. Some facts to weigh against the political arguments.  Happy voting.  -- Croz

  

Comments

Aunty Nur's accountant said…
I'm with you and your missus Croz. Everything is wonderful in Fiji thanks to the coup and the illegal regime - let's have more of it?
Anonymous said…
Aunty Nur's accountant-
Am sure you also have a graph or evidence to support your "humorous" statement.
Anonymous said…
Interesting comparison. It would be useful to introduce purchasing power of the respective populations, especially minimum wages. The picture changes quite dramatically if you that and the true picture emerges.
Anonymous said…
Considering you know the true picture, can you please post what these purchasing powers are here? (No pun intended)
Pun said…
Dear Pun
Lets take bread, a staple for low income households in both countries. If you work one hour in Fiji at the current minimum wage of $2 you are able to buy 2 kg for an hours work. In New Zealand where the bread is twice the Fiji price, your minimum wage is NZ$ 14.25 or $ Fiji 23, you can by 11.5 kg of bread after your one hours work. I hope this helps you to understand what a nonsense Croz' comparison really is.
Anonymous said…
Am not convinced yet sorry. I may need a better explanation than what you gave for bread.
Anonymous said…
I think you need help mate...
Crosbie Walsh said…
He's not the only one who needs help. If you re-read my article, I noted the different wage levels and the obvious fact that Fiji is a Third World country where the standard of living is lower than NZ. But I was writing about expenditure of food -- the topic laboured by Mick Beddoes among others — and the facts,there show that the cost of most food items listed were cheaper in Fiji.
Anonymous said…
@Crosby Walsh-

Don't worry I was taunting him in a way because rather then me try and argue the points with evidence (comparison data and giving him facts) as am a I'Taukei from Fiji who now lives in Aotearoa, I knew that he is one of the contributors who will resort to name calling or what he/she just did by telling me that I need help. As I said in one of your earlier threads, it sickens me that we Fijians cannot debate effectively without resorting to name calling. Rather than waste my time, I invited the contributor to try and convince me as he boldly labelled your article/comparison data as nonsense.
Anonymous said…
god you are a boring old drain on the new zealand tax payer
coups make everyone rich said…
The silly old fool supports human rights abusing regimes. His missus gets free holidays in Fiji from these junta scumbags - it supplements his meagre pension - leave him alone!
The cost of greed said…
It has become habitual to blame 2006 coup on everything. High cost of living and poverty have been a fact of life in Fiji due decades of corrupt and pathetic leadership by Rabuka/SVT (NBF scandal); Mahen Chaudhy/People's Coalition (partly responsible for economically debilitating 2000 coup because of poor judgement); Qarase/SDL (Agriculture Scam and various other fallings recorded by auditor general). High cost of living is outcome of accumulated sins of all past governments and prime ministers, largely a greedy lot out to fill their own pockets. Perhaps Bainimarama/FF will add their own record to this pathetic legacy.
Anonymous said…
I am glad that all is well in Fiji. In fact I shall consider immigrating to this little paradise.
Spoilt for choice said…
All is not well in Fiji. You should consider immigrating to Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, Kenya or Nigeria. Egypt if you like. Perhaps Sudan? Or even PNG might be a good option? Fiji is no good. There are heaps of other choices.
Anonymous said…
@Spoilt for choice

I am going to migrate to Fiji as I have been to all those countries (except Nigeria) that you have said but they all worse than Fiji. I wonder if you have been to any of them?
Spoilt for choice said…
my response was for those who whinge about how bad fiji is.
Anonymous said…
@Spoilt for choice

Apologies mate please disregard my post.
Anonymous said…
Or perhaps the FF1 will not leave such a pathetic legacy c.f. previous governments?

We voters have to choose between the devil and its legacy, and the 'deep blue sea' (pun unintended).
Cin Cin said…
I would have thought the almost inevitable series of post coup devaluations of the Fiji dollar would be a factor in food prices. In that respect Beddoes would have a point.

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