23 Sep 2006

Fiji government paper says more than a third of Fijians live below the poverty line

8:58 am on 23 September 2006

A Fiji government paper has confirmed that more than one third of the population live below the official poverty line.

The government's Strategic Development Plan says 34.4 percent of the population is below the basic needs poverty line which is defined as a household income of 4,675 US dollars a year.

A household income and expenditure survey found that the average income of poor households was only 3,160 US dollars a year, or 1,500 dollars below the government's own poverty line.

The survey revealed of the people living in rural areas, 43 percent of ethnic Indians were below the poverty line, 41 percent of minority races and 38 percent of indigenous Fijians.

In urban areas as well, the highest percentage of those below the poverty line were ethnic Indians.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Ecumenical Centre for Research and Advocacy, Father Kevin Barr, has revealed that poverty has been rising steadily in Fiji since independence.

Father Barr says while the figure was only 9 percent of the population in 1977, by 1990 it had risen to 25 percent and to almost 35 percent now.

He says poverty will grow even more if politicians continue to downplay its existence.