12 Aug 2003

Fiji poverty living below the poverty

3:39 pm on 12 August 2003

The Fiji Council of Social Services is sticking by its figures that 55 percent of the population now lives below the poverty line despite government officials saying this is inaccurate.

The executive director, Hassan Khan, says the National Planning office is claiming that only 30 percent of the population falls into that category but he says they're doing this based on a technicality.

He says they can do this because the Bureau of Statistics is yet to confirm housing income and expenditure reports.

Mr Khan says their statistics on poverty consider not only economics but also the social reality that 20,000 people are looking for assistance with everyday living.

"It appears that we are hiding behind the small figures that are being given out by economists or for political reasons and we're not looking at the reality of the situation, the social aspect of it, and I think if one can explain these things it'll be good."

Mr Khan says an average family earns 4,000 U.S, dollars a year or 64 dollars a week and the council's figures on poverty were verified by the Asian Development Bank this year.

The Fiji Council of Social Services meets tomorrow with the National Planning Office to discuss welfare statistics in Fiji and finalise strategies to combat rising poverty in the country.