17 Nov 2003

Fiji opposition leader seeks budget help for poor

4:21 pm on 17 November 2003

Fiji's opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, has proposed a series of measures to help the country's disabled, retired people, and underprivileged school children.

Opening the debate on the 2004 national budget in parliament today, Mr Beddoes said the state can subsidise public transport fares for all three groups of people and provide free lunches, books and uniforms for underprivileged children.

He said vouchers for subsidised transport can be issued through NGOs and churches to avoid the cumbersome, unproductive and costly bureaucracy of the government.

Mr Beddoes has suggested measures to pay for these services by making savings in the public sector.

He says the 331 people in the public service now past retirement age should be allowed to leave, resulting in immediate savings of 3 million US dollars.

Mr Beddoes says the activation of retirement in 2004 and the following year will result in total savings of over 22 million US dollars which would be enough to pay for the measures he has proposed.

He says the government has no greater moral responsibility than to look after all the people of the country,.