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Government to fork out over $5-6m in assistance for Fijians

May 5, 2021 10:00 am
Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum [left] and the Acting Permanent Secretary for Economy Shiri Gounder

The government will be giving affected Fijians $90 as grocery payment for those living in the Nadi and Lautoka containment areas and also in the Suva-Nausori corridor, which will cost around over five to six million dollars.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says this will be for those who don’t get unemployment benefits and if they can’t go to work, as the businesses are not operational.

He says also if the affected do not have a Fiji National Provident Fund account, they will be entitled to this.

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Sayed-Khaiyum confirms that the delivery will be through the Vodafone M Paisa and Digicel My Cash Wallet.

“So one classic point of course is somebody working as a hairdresser who has a hairdressing business. Now there may be some who are working as waiters and waitresses because their restaurants may not be running at their full capacity, they of course will not be able to get access to wages and salaries. If they do not have FNPF if they cannot access their FNPF account because they don’t actually have an active FNPF account, then they will be entitled to this particular benefit.”

Sayed-Khaiyum also highlighted that for the Suva-Nausori corridor, this will be for those who fall in the category of no benefits nor FNPF assistance.

The Economy Minister says those who are outside of the containment zone but cannot work as per directive from the Health Ministry, which impacts any occupations, can also apply.

“We ask people to please use these funds responsibly. This does not mean that some people may not take out the cash to buy cigarettes or buy yaqona. But there may be lots of people who will take out the cash to buy diapers, they want to buy formula or they may want to buy sugar whatever the case may be. There is a particular level of trust we are placing on the citizens of Fiji who will be the beneficiaries of this initiative that we have put in place.”

Fijians will need to text their details including, their name, address, location, number of people in their household, their FNPF number if they have one.

Sayed-Khaiyum explains that this will help teams to identify if the people are telling the truth with the telcos being able to verify if they are from the location they are claiming to be.

“We have to ensure that there is proper accountability, there needs to be a new culture of honesty about this and please we urge everybody, that we have actually try to come up with a much better system and this is the best system to be able to deliver the accessibility to Fijians to be able to buy basic food items, or various other items that they want to access.”

Sayed-Khaiyum says people will also be able to phone in and give their bank account details, but the preferred method is texting.

All logistics including texting numbers will be sorted today and this is expected to be rolled out tomorrow.

Sayed-Khaiyum says they want to start out from a smaller area to test this system and it is likely that this will start in Nadi, from Momi junction to Lomolomo.

Meanwhile, Shiri Gounder, the Acting Permanent Secretary for Economy, says the recent food distribution in the Suva-Nausori corridor was a big exercise.

He says 4,430 food packs were distributed and all records were taken and each food pack had eight items.

Gounder says there was a large request and this had to be scrutinized as there was a repeat request and also from outside the Suva-Nausori corridor and hence they went down from the anticipated 7,000 to 4,430.

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