10 Mar 2003

Calls for immediate action over poverty in Fiji

5:12 pm on 10 March 2003

There are strong calls for immediate action in Fiji after a report last week revealed that half of the country's population live below or close to the official poverty line.

The report, which was commissioned by the World Council of Churches, and prepared Ecumenical Centre for Research and Advocacy, says the government's Family Assistance Scheme targets only the worst cases of destitution and is grossly inadequate to meet basic needs.

It says the type of economic policies pursued by the Fiji government have already shown in other parts of the world that they make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and it cannot be otherwise in Fiji.

The Daily Post reports that the director of the Ecumenical Centre , Father Kevin Barr, is calling for more effort from the government to help the increasing number of disadvantaged because traditional family nets provided by extended families are breaking down.

Father Barr says a warning had already been issued last year for Fiji to act now or risk sinking into permanent third world poverty.

The opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, has called for the convening of a special session of parliament to discuss poverty, unemployment as well as the law and order situation.

Mr Beddoes says the findings of the poverty report are alarming and warrant immediate effort from leaders to work together to break the poverty cycle.