The Council welcomes Government’s emphasis in the 2017-2018 Budget on social protection where low-income earners, pensioners, youths, and physically challenged will benefit.
The Council views the budget as a clever, well thought that is heavily focused towards improving the quality of lives of ordinary Fijians.
The various announcements made by the Minister of Economy on the policies, duties, taxation will encourage socio-economic empowerment as a catalyst for a consumption driven economy.
The increase in income tax threshold from $16,000 to $30,000 and the minimum wage rate from $2.32 to $2.68 is the best news for the majority of working population as less tax means people will have more take-home pay.
The 2017-2018 budget initiatives will certainly trigger consumer spending, which is needed for positive growth of the economy as a whole.
It is a fact that more money in consumers’ pockets means more spending and consequently, more business for traders, hence, ultimately positive economic growth.
The stricter monitoring of prices by the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service and Fiji Commerce Commission will ensure the government’s intention to reduce the cost of goods and services is passed onto consumers.
We encourage consumers to be part of the solution by coming up with cases where VAT or duty has been wrongfully charged to them.
Furthermore, the ordinary consumers will continue to benefit from the free education, free bus fare, water and medicine schemes.
The other good news is that consumers with a combined income of less than $30,000 will receive government subsidy on the use of first 100kwh of electricity and anything over 100kwh will be charged the normal rate.
The Council recognises the protection being given to tenants who fall victims to unfair evictions by their landlords. They can now seek legal assistance from the Legal Aid Commission without having to pay any legal fees.
The increases made to the social pension scheme, social welfare and the food voucher programme will increase the purchasing power of the needy population.
Also encouraging is the lifting of the restriction placed on food voucher recipients to shop at one supermarket only. Now consumers will have the choice to select the supermarket based on the prices being offered, including quality of food items.
The Council also welcomes the exemption of fringe benefit tax on health insurance.
This will encourage more employers to provide health insurance covers for their employees. This was part of the Council’s budget submission.
It is worth noting that with the enactment of the Fiji Interchange Network in February 2017, the banks and financial institutions will be required to be connected to the network giving consumers access to superior online financial services and lower transaction costs.
Overall, the Council sees the 2017-2018 national budget as one that will definitely boost consumer confidence in the marketplace with no drastic change in taxes and duties.
CONSUMER COUNCIL OF FIJI