A comprehensive assessment of Fiji today

Two years ago I was asked to write an Assessment of the Fiji situation as I saw it. Now I have been asked once again to reflect on the current situation and make an assessment of Fiji today.

Two years ago I wrote:

“Unlike the 1987 and 2000 coups which were carried out in the name of ‘indigenous Fijian rights’, this coup was in the name of multiculturalism. Moreover, while the 1987 and 2000 coups sought to protect the economic interests of certain business and traditional elites, this coup aimed to address corruption and economic mismanagement and see that the economy works in the interest of all Fiji’s people (35% – 40% of whom live below the poverty line). Moreover, the Bainimarama government says it wants to return Fiji to real democracy and that his coup was a coup to end all future coups.”

How well have the aims of the 2006 Coup been fulfilled?

I guess the big question now is how well have the aims of the December 2006 coup been fulfilled?

Combatting racism

In terms of combating racism and making everyone in Fiji respect multiculturalism, a lot has been achieved. The racist legislation of the Qarase era which provoked the coup has been withdrawn. People of all races living in Fiji are now called “Fijians” (with the indigenous Fijians being referred to as i-Taukei). The divisive aspects of elections has been done away with so that now we are to have one person, one vote. The names of schools identified according to race have been changed. Of course, as many say, it is easy to pass legislation against racism but changing the mentality of the people is another matter and takes time. But there have been very positive moves to address racism. However, as some point out, the army itself is still a racially based institution dominated by indigenous Fijians and so does not really represent multi-culturalism.

Class divisions have increased

Presumably racism has been fought for the purpose of making Fiji a more inclusive nation. However, while racism and racial divisiveness has been addressed, it would appear that class divisions have increased. Fiji is still a country with deep inequalities (as the 1997 Fiji Poverty Report states in its opening sentence). Income inequalities have increased with the lower 30% of the population earning roughly 10% of all wages and the upper 30% earning roughly 60% of all wages. Poverty and inequality have increased. A number of pro-poor programs have been introduced (such as free bus fares for those whose parents combined income is below $15,000, free text-books for schools, food stamps for those on social welfare) BUT these have been negated by policies introduced on the advice of the World Bank and the IMF (such as increasing VAT, devaluing the currency by 20%, and privatizing/corporatizing various entities – including basic services such as water and electricity). All these policies have impacted heavily on the poor only 3-4% of whom are covered under Social Welfare programs. Read more

Additional reading

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