1 Nov 2005

Fiji NGO calls for tax relief for poor ahead of budget

9:13 am on 1 November 2005

A church-based NGO in Fiji is calling for significant changes in the taxation system to provide relief for the very poor.

The Fiji Times reports that the call from the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy has come ahead of next Friday's announcement of the 2006 Budget in parliament.

The Centre's director, Aisake Casimira, says the government should remove the 12 and a half percent Value Added Tax from all basic food items to ease the burden on Fiji's underprivileged.

Mr Casimira says there is a growing gap between the few at the top and the many at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Mr Casimira says allowing price rises for basic foods, like milk, rice and sugar, while tolerating such low wages as are paid in Fiji, amounts to serious injustice and oppression of the poor.

Statistics provided by the Asian Development Bank show that 25 to 30 per cent of Fiji's population live below the poverty line, and at least 47 per cent of those in full time employment are earning wages below the poverty line.

Mr Casimira is also calling for a watchdog to ensure that funds allocated for poverty alleviation are really used for that purpose.