YB was a little startled the other day to receive on their FB social media feed, an article from Lonely Planet titled, “10 Reasons why Fiji is one of the happiest countries”. It went onto to quote a Gallup poll that apparently found that 89% of Fijians surveyed said they were “happy”.
It was startling because wandering around Suva nowadays, YB is struck by just how grumpy everyone seems to be. So YB returned to the article to double check the facts and sure enough the fine print revealed that the article was originally written in 2014 and updated in 2020 as a tourism puff piece!
Taking that into account, just what were the reasons for our “happiness”, and what’s changed. The ten reasons listed, in no particular order, COLOUR that’s vegetation, CLIMATE, COMMUNITY, FRESH FOOD, KAVA, MUSIC, FIJI TIME, CEREMONY, MULTICULTURISM AND PEACE. Hmmm ?????
So, what’s changed since 2014 that has resulted in all this grouchiness….. well, we can add FREEDOM to the list, but you would have thought that would have increased happiness. COLOUR and CLIMATE ….. still the same. COMMUNITY, the exodus to Australia and New Zealand has certainly had an impact but that really hasn’t changed. FRESH FOOD still plenty of it though some of it more expensive but that’s the same the world over. KAVA trying to remember the price in 2014 it certainly peaked post Winston 2017 and is now back down again. MUSIC that’s certainly better post covid. FIJI TIME never changes. CEREMONY, if anything, more of that now. MULTICULTURISM, at least now we can celebrate this openly. PEACE, concerns over the rising crime rate could be an issue for some but at least we don’t have to worry about “big brother” pouncing on us nowadays!
So why the long faces ….. Well to be honest it seems the whole world is a bit grumpy nowadays, with rising food and commodity prices and ongoing global tensions, nobody seems particularly settled. Post covid and Donald Trump (subject to possible comeback) the world remains disrupted and that is most visible in the large migration of talent across the globe with Fiji sitting at the bottom of a talent food chain.
But the world and Fiji has been in lot worse trouble before, so this raises once again the issue why so toxic now. In YB’s mind, there is a simple answer ….. social media. Whereas previously if you had a gripe you took it to your grog bowl or if really upset maybe write to the papers but now you can connect to a world of fellow grumblers with a quick post via your phone.
It’s frightening just how quickly a small grumble escalates to a torrent of abuse, usually way off the original topic. It is especially disturbing to see the way older folk leap on to berate all and sundry but most particularly younger generations. This seems particularly prevalent in Fiji. The sad thing is many don’t seem to care about the hurt being caused and this is reflected by the fact that many don’t make much of an effort to mask their identity.
The particularly strange thing is that in all this venting, FACTS don’t get much of a look in. Let’s start with the number one gripe around the world …. rising food prices and the idea that Governments can “control” prices.
Yes, responsible Governments can affect prices by reducing duty and taxes but beyond that they can’t do much directly. Yet for wannabe politicians, who should know better, there is no easier way of gaining support than to loudly proclaim that Government should be taking direct measures to stop price increases. One of these characters recently proposed increasing the value of the Fiji $ to reduce
the cost of imports! Sounds simple until you provoke a run of investors disappearing out the door and destroy a tourism industry already regarded by many as too expensive.
Food prices are affected by so many things, but the simplest example is think of the Suva market. Vegetables are typically seasonal and so when they come into peak season prices go down because there is a lot of supply and when they are out of season, prices rise rewarding the smart farmers or importers who are able to deliver. Now let’s go global, when Russia invades the world’s largest producer of grain products, Ukraine, the price of wheat flour will go up and there is nothing the Fiji Government can do about it.
Well, they could enforce lower prices but that would just mean no flour on the shelves, or they could use taxpayer’s money to subsidise the price but that means no money for schools etc. Besides, more than enough taxpayer funds are already tied up subsidising the sugar cane farmers!
So, patience, everything has a cycle and sure enough prices on dairy and vegetable oils are now coming down. Along with that Fiji staple, the lamb chop, that there was much grumbling about earlier in the year. Thanks to a looming drought in Australia, that has dropped by nearly 25% (do I hear applause for the Government on that??).
Look at the Yellow Bucket, there is plenty we complain about and yes the Government cops their fair share but let’s be sensible. This idea that the FCCC running around monitoring prices is an efficient use of taxpayer’s money, has got to go. Yes, post budget a few retailers screwed up their calculations and tried to charge some crazy prices. But not ALL the retailers were that incompetent and so Fiji consumers bought their chicken from the shops that charged the correct prices AND that’s what brings the prices down COMPETITION.
So, if a government is really interested in controlling prices, focus on making it easier to do business not harder. A short side story, a small retailer selling high end ladies clothes shared the other day that about four times a year, about six FCCC inspectors arrive in her small shop to check all the prices of her clothing. Ummm why ????
So, cheer up Fiji …. cyclone season is here but Christmas is coming, and we have all that Colour, Community, Climate etc etc to be happy about and don’t forget the Kava!
Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations