People should not be taken in by Sayed-Khaiyum’s sudden change of heart - Chaudhry

People should not be taken in by Sayed-Khaiyum’s sudden change of heart - Chaudhry

By Shanil Singh
Saturday 26/03/2022
Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry

The Fiji Labour Party says people should not be taken in by Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s sudden change of heart in removing VAT from basic food and a range of other household items and the scrapping of the additional 20 cents a litre fuel tax.

Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says these concessions were long overdue and people have been crying out for at least the past six years for some relief to the ever-rising cost of living through the removal of VAT on essentials.

Chaudhry says this is nothing but a budget to bait the voters.

However in his right of reply, Sayed-Khaiyum has said in Parliament that this is not an election.

The Attorney General says none of the government members or he himself mentioned election while delivering the budget statement.

Meanwhile, Chaudhry also says that after the last two cyclones the people of Vanua Levu had been pleading for a relief rehabilitation package to help them cope with the devastation but nothing was forthcoming from the Minister.

Chaudhry says suddenly Sayed-Khaiyum is now offering a $100 and $50 one-off relief assistance to the people of the North and questions if he really thinks that the people are so gullible to fall for such gimmicks.

The former Prime Minister says the removal of 9% VAT from basic food items and other household essentials is offset by the 15% VAT imposed on clothing, shoes, textiles and a range of other goods and services.

He says there is a clear trade off here as people will now be paying 6% more for clothing, footwear, textiles, white goods, jewellery, sound systems and electronic equipment among other things.

Chaudhry says parents will have to fork out more for school uniforms, shoes and bags for their children.

The FLP Leader has also questioned the rationale behind implementing the $4 per hour national minimum wage rate in four phases, each separated by a period of two months.

He says it does not make sense and further deprives the affected workers of their just dues.

Chaudhry says the increase of $3.01 from 1st April 2022 will raise the weekly net wages to $112 which is grossly inadequate to meet even the basic needs of the people.

He says to push back the rate of $4 per hour by a further 9 months to January 2023 is plainly cheating the people out of their just entitlement.

Chaudhry says the Attorney General has not explained the rationale behind such an illogical approach to a pressing issue for the thousands of workers who are affected by it.

The former Prime Minister also says the Government has done nothing to review the existing rate of welfare allowances for the elderly, for those aged above 65 with no other means of income, and those living in poverty under the Poverty Benefit Scheme.

He says how can Sayed-Khaiyum justify giving a 200% tax relief to employers for complying with the statutory requirement for maternity leave to workers while ignoring the urgent need to provide relief to people living in poverty.

We have sent questions to the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and are awaiting his response.

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