Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s announcement of the long-awaited review of the national minimum wage in a mini budget next month has got to be seen as an election gimmick.
In a statement, Chaudhry says our people have been facing extreme hardship over the past two years and have been crying out for some relief through an upward revision of the minimum wage.
He has questioned where Sayed-Khaiyum was all these years.
Chaudhry says he does not believe that Sayed-Khaiyum has suddenly woken up to their cries for an increase in the minimum wage rate because of rising cost of living.
He says if government is sincere about providing relief to the suffering people, it should immediately raise the national minimum wage to $4 an hour as an interim measure pending the completion of a properly conducted review.
Chaudhry says Sayed-Khaiyum should remove the 9% VAT on basic food items he imposed in the 2016 Budget which will provide immediate relief to the poor.
He has also questioned where is the need for public consultation when the people themselves have been clamouring for a wage increase.
The FLP Leader questions what sort of consultation does Sayed-Khaiyum expect to carry out in less than two weeks in time to include it in his March 17 mini-budget.
While speaking in a press conference, Sayed-Khaiyum had said that it is an appropriate time to review the wages and salaries due to inflation and costs being passed down to the people.
He says they will have wage review public consultations soon, and expect to have the review completed before the mini budget is announced.
Chaudhry also says Sayed-Khaiyum is not being honest when he says that the last review was done in 2018 and the usual two-year review was withheld because of COVID.
He says the national minimum wage was last reviewed in the 2017 Budget after which it was raised from $2.32 to $2.68.
Chaudhry says the next review was due in 2019, long before the crisis caused by the pandemic but this was not done.
We have sent questions to Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and are waiting for his response.
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