July 7, 2007

Fiji Workers Pay

Letter to Fiji Times - 7 June 2007
Further cuts in public sector wages and a tighteningin expenditure are to be expected as the interim regime struggles to reignite Fiji's economy. To say otherwise is to cheat on government workers as the economic levers available to the regime dwindle at each turn.
The devaluation of the currency may be inevitable as import levels grow and foreign reserves to pay for it drop. The loss of skilled labour and expertise to overseas countries will further slow recovery, especially for attempts at reviving export sectors. As well, many are sceptical at attempts to attract tourism from non-traditional sources such as India, despite Chaudhry's self interested motivation for it.
While the the previous Qarase government has been dipping into the FNPF to fund its Budget deficit, Chaudhry is no better in obtaining similar funding from overseas capital markets. At least with the previous regime, repayment of the borrowed funds remain in the country. The key challenge in reviving the economy is growing it in a manner that does not stifle internal demand. Cutting wages of struggling families is not how to go about it as it just leads to other downstream social costs.
To grow the economy require workers who would give of their labour that equates to the cost and is of equivalent value and more in productivity gains. However, for that to occur you need a supportive environment that value workers' contribution, rights and entitlements.
Sadly, the current situation workers in Fiji find themselves is not of their making, yet they are paying a heavy price for it. To them, I can only say, take note of that fact and make those responsible pay an equally heavy price at the ballot box when Fiji's dignity as a democratic nation is finally restored.
Sai Lealea

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