Vanuatu Labor Party Supports Minimum Wage Increase

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Party emphasizes price of fuel as increasing living costs

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 17, 2012) – The Vanuatu Labor Party (VLP) has called on the Vanuatu Government to review the Labor Act (Cap.160), especially the provision on minimum wage to reflect the present cost of living.

In a statement to the Minister of Internal Affairs and copied to local media, signed by the VLP President and Efate Rural MP Joshua Kalsakau, Epi MP Ioane Simon Omawa and Malekula MP Eta Rory, the three page statement outlined reasons behind their call.

The MPs stated that it cannot be denied that the cost of living has increased over the last few years as a result of rising fuel prices which impacted on the cost of food production, transport, electricity, communication, water, construction and other basic needs required to maintain a comfortable life style, VLP leaders said in the statement.

The Vanuatu Labor Party pointed out that Vanuatu does not produce its own fuel and will depend on outside supplies and unless the country has its own fuel sources exploited and harness the natural resources of energy to supply power, the country’s economy will continue to be driven by the cost of imported fossil fuel.

The law of demand and supply dictates that the cost of fuel will continue to rise. This directly impacts on the rise of cost of living, the VLP voiced with concern, in support of the cry of 3,000 employees in the private sector that appeared in last weekend’s issue of the Daily Post.

"We cannot turn the blind eye on the concern of the employees as without them the economy will falter. The Government now needs to take serious steps as the consequences of doing nothing could be far reaching disaster and chaotic," the VLP leaders voiced in their statement of concern to local media.

The statement by the VLP leaders went on to state: "We cannot live entirely on subsistence economy and expect to grow in parallel to other countries that we trade with. Our growth can only be driven by the monetary economy. The ability of Vanuatu to achieve the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDC) depends on the population at large to be happy, able to sustain an affordable lifestyle that they enjoy. This implies that government has the duty to ensure that there is peace and harmony all the time. In order to realize this goal the low wage earners had to be connected with their living standard."

Their statement also emphasized that the employees have suffered enough hardships and for many to achieve the objective of a comfortable lifestyle is now nothing but a wild dream. It is very sad that the Government has often in the past has been neglecting to deal properly and objectively with the plight of the employees even when there are issues brought to the attention of relevant government authorities, the statement continued.

"The cost of living in Vanuatu is certainly one of the highest in the Pacific and the world. However, we seem to be complacent and accept our way of life today and forget about improving our situation for the benefit of everyone to the future. VLP thinks the government need to create a policy environment whereby our natural resources which we have adequate stock of are exploited at the sustainable level so that we can become self sufficient to some degree. The fact that we import a large proportion of goods we use our development and our daily needs means that our foreign spending dictates the cost at home," VLP leaders stated.

The VLP statement ended by saying that: "By reducing our dependency on foreign import, we can dramatically reduce our cost of living and only be of benefit to everyone not only for the urban population who are most affected but also the rural population as well. The Vanuatu Labor Party pledges its fullest support for the increase in the minimum wages."

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