Fiji Times

SUVA. Fiji (June 30, 2008) – Taxpayers are footing the fuel bill for people from the [outer] islands to come to Suva to attend a two-day meeting.

The return trip will cost taxpayers $58,000 for two boats to bring and return 230 people.

And this happens twice a year.

It is not just confined to one provincial council. According to the Government Shipping Services, it happens with other provincial councils.

The department has carted members to attend the Cakaudrove, Ba and Kadavu provincial council meetings so far this year.

How much this cost is anybody's guess but it's safe to say that it would have run into thousands and thousands of taxpayers' dollars.

All provincial council meetings are held twice a year. The meetings are open to anyone who belongs to that province, but especially to those who represent their districts and tikina.

They discuss issues that affect them, hear what the other reps have to say and invite government officials to explain government policies, procedures, projects and assistance programs.

These meetings are important to provincial leaders, to members of the province and to the government of the day.

But should the cost of transporting these grassroots people to attend a provincial meeting be borne by them or by the taxpayers?

The price of fuel has increased five times so far this year and some food items have gone up too.

People have also made many sacrifices in order to survive these difficult times. Some families in the squatter settlements can only afford to eat one main meal a day.

Some children have not gone to school because their parents can't afford bus fares and lunches.

More people are catching the bus to work and school because taxi fares are now a luxury item.

The interim Government increased the income tax threshold from $9000 to $15,000 so that people have more take-home pay.

Families around the country have been urged to grow vegetables and rootcrops at home to minimise their expenses.

And yet you have a government boat, using taxpayers money to ferry people for free to attend a meeting.

This is a waste of resources, funds and time, and must stop.

If provincial councils want their members to attend their meetings, they should pay for their fare. If they want a government boat to pick them, they should pay for the full cost of the trip.

It should be a user-pay system.

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