4 Jul 2002

New Caledonia unrest over social security system signs of rift between public and government

10:33 am on 4 July 2002

A prominent politician has criticised the New Caledonian government for its lack of consultation with Noumea businesses over its new social security system.

Leader of the Opposition Alliance party, Didier Leroux, says the recent teachers strike and protests by small businesses and the self employed show a growing rift between the public and government.

The groups were protesting against the government combining several social security or health insurance systems into a single compulsory plan for all New Caledonians.

The protests had focussed on the introduction of a non-redeemable services tax to fund the new system which came into effect on Monday.

Mr Leroux says the government refused to consult with the small business people because they were not supporters of Jacques Lafleur.

"There is an ever increasing divorce between the government and the population in this country. About 18,000 private entrepreneurs had been obliged to be part of this social security. They do not want that because it's a burden made compulsory on them. They want to be listened to and Mr Lafleur has said I don't receive the people who don't vote for me."

Alliance leader - Didier Leroux