Report by: Ritika Pratap
President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau says the government will build on the reforms of the past eight years to continue improving the lives of Fijians. Many of the government’s initiatives are designed to alleviate poverty, to provide a leg-up for Fijians. In an effort to unlock further potential for i-taukei landowners to generate wealth for their land, the government will set aside ten million dollars to help i-taukei use their land for subdivision and development. The Funding will be made available as grants. The government will also ensure that the Itaukei Land Trust Board performs at the highest level and reforms at TLTB will continue. Land Owning Units will now not have to pay application fees when leasing their own land. The President also says the government intends to reduce cost of living pressures. National Minimum wage will be revised upwards in line with the recommendation of the Reddy report to a new rate of $2.32 an hour from 1 July 2015. Electricity subsidy for low income earners will increase from 75 kilowatts to 85 kilowatts per hour. Free water for Fijian households earning less than a total income of thirty thousand dollars will be provided. “Free education will now be available one year before admission to primary school at recognised and accredited pre-schools.” Social security system for non FNPF members will continue and eligibility rate will be lowered to 68 from 1st July 2015 and further lowered to 66 in July 2016. Fijians earning less than twenty-thousand dollars will get all prescribed medicine for non-communicable disease currently under price control free. Essential drugs will remain under price control. Other reforms include – Government will now take control of the import of all fossil fuels. International tenders will be called for the supply of fuel and existing companies will then buy that fuel from the government. All state land on which squatters have been living will be subdivided and squatters will be given 99 years leases. Negotiations will also be i-taukei landowners to give 99-year residential leases to squatters. One million dollars will also be set aside to provide emergency assistance to Fijians earning below 20, 000 dollars, who have proper leases, but no insurance and have lost their homes in fire. The Government will double the amount payable under workmen’s compensation for death and injury claims. The President says all these measures are designed to assist Fijians, create economic growth and reduce gap between the more fortunate and the less fortunate among us.