14 Nov 2002

Fiji Labour Party says economic depression could depopulate Vanua Levu

11:33 am on 14 November 2002

The Fiji Labour Party has expressed fears that there will be a mass exodus of people from the second island of Vanua Levu and neighbouring Taveuni to the main island of Viti Levu.

The Labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says this could happen because of the possible economic depression caused by the Government's 2003 Budget.

The Fiji Times quotes Mr Chaudhry as saying that in a series of public meetings in the northern division, they found that people were angry because there was no provision in the Budget to address their declining economic conditions.

He says kava prices have dropped from almost 17-US dollars a kilogramme to just over four dollars while copra has slumped from 322-US dollars a tonne to 185 dollars.

Mr Chaudhry says there were angry reactions, particularly from indigenous Fijians, who feared that these prices would be further depressed by the Budget.

He said the increase in Value Added Tax would again raise fuel and rural transport costs which are already high because of long distance freight charges.