MP Prasad suggests setting up a workers solidarity fund

Prof Biman Prasad. Picture: FT FILE

Fiji is in the middle of a huge crisis and the impact on the local economy could be a contraction of between 15 to 20 per cent, says Opposition MP Professor Biman Prasad.

He said that would mean that thousands of workers would be without jobs in the country.

“That is why we need to have some very clear plan and that is why I also suggested that we should create a workers solidarity fund,” Prof Prasad said.

“The Government reduced the FNPF contribution from 18 per cent to 10 per cent, 5 per cent for the employers contribution and 3 per cent, of course, the employers contribution which goes to the employees, but out of that 5 per cent contribution, if you look at the total salaries and wages of about $1billion in the revised Budget, and if we work that out, on average the Government is going to save about $4million per month.

“What we are suggesting, Mr. Speaker, Sir, is Government should put that money into a workers solidarity fund because I think the situation is going to get worse.”

Prof Prasad said there were many people and while Fiji recorded about 28 per cent to 30 per cent of the households below the poverty line, “we could see, Mr. Speaker, in the next six months, given the crisis that we have that the poverty rate could reach about 50 per cent”.

“Those 20 per cent on the margins of poverty line could fall well below the poverty line. That is why many of these would be workers who would be losing jobs, who would be on reduced hours, reduced days and this is where I think the workers solidarity fund, Mr Speaker Sir, would be very, very important”

Prof Prasad also added that some of the direct budget support Fiji was getting from donors like Australian and New Zealand could be used here “because in a crisis, it is very important for the Government and for us in Parliament, to ensure that the most vulnerable and those who are expected to fall into that vulnerable group are helped”.

“That is the kind of things we should be talking about here. Not coming out here and blaming the Opposition for raising legitimate criticism and forgetting about all the suggestions that we have given. This is politicising the issue.”

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