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People first … the centre of any Budget must be men, women and children

On the eve of the announcement of Fiji’s 2020-2021 Budget, the Pacific Conference of Churches calls on all Pacific Island countries to ensure that any national budget must put the people at the centre.

In the context of Fiji, we fully endorse the submission by one of our member churches, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Suva on the 2020-2021 Budget, which is based on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

The theological viewpoints of other member churches also speak to this, such as Wesleyan ethics for Methodists, which put justice and stewardship at the heart of economics for: a focus on the common good and holistic wellbeing; public discussion and agreement; and in terms of use of resources, consideration of future generations, both of humans and other living beings.

All government initiatives must focus on well-being and justice of the people. The people have a right also to full and comprehensive consultation on the budget and how it will affect them – including a just wage and representation by unions.

The issue of representation has become glaringly obvious in the case of ATS workers (before and after COVID19), the treatment of hotel and Fiji Airways staff, the arbitrary dismissal of civil servants and the failure of the Ministry of Education over the last three years to address the review of conditions for teachers.

A budget must address the rights of the people to water, health services and education – not as a privilege attached to votes but as a fundamental right to all citizens.

Roads and electricity must be provided under the budget in order to open up the most viable economic opportunities in agriculture, fisheries and for Small and Medium enterprises, not as favours to political allies.

We understand the challenges placed on Pacific governments by the impact of COVID19, but suggest that further entrenching economic policies that are alternatives to a predatory system of economic extraction that contradicts the purpose of God, through bondage by acquisitiveness, militarization, and consumerism.

We call on our Pacific governments to have the courage to speak of an economy of abundance at a time when the scarcity model is the dominant narrative.

Rev. James Shri Bhagwan

General Secretary

Categories: Uncategorized

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