Fiji ‘missed opportunity’ to promote gender equality in budget

3 Jul 18

Last week’s Fijian budget was a “missed opportunity” to promote gender equality through fiscal policies, a social development adviser has told PF International.

The Fijian government announced its 4.6bn Fijian dollar (about $2.19bn) budget last week, which included grants for new-borns and first-time house buyers, as well as an increase in parental leave.

But Roshika Deo, a Fijian politician and activist who has worked with UN agencies and Pacific governments, said that although the budget had first appeared to be inclusive, it did not address inequalities.

“From the first reading of the budget, it appears to have a strong social budget component however it is a missed opportunity to incorporate a gender analysis in the budget,” she told PF International.

A gender analysis, part of gender budgeting, identifies the ways that public spending and revenue impacts men and women differently and attempts to achieve gender equality.  

Almost 1bn Fijian dollar was also allocated to the education sector in the 2018-19 budget.

But Deo – who is the founder of the ‘Be The Change Campaign’ in Fiji, which endorses feminism - said that “a lack of gender analysis could potentially result in not addressing systematic inequalities despite the huge investment and show of political will in this sector”. 

However, she added: “Some of the budgetary allocations support progressive policies that have the ability to transform social norms, for instance offering paternity leave for fathers. It’s only 5 days but a start.”

The budget included a 1,000 Fijian dollar assistance grant to parents and up to 15,000 Fijian dollars for housing-buying assistance.

It also included insurance for 100,000 civil servants, subsidies treatment for diabetics and the removal of a 5% tax on imported fruit and vegetables, as well as free bus fares for the elderly.

Deo said: “Addressing inequality however requires more than mono-dimensional budgetary policies such as free bus use for elderly and people with disability, which is not supported by any other policy changes, such as buses/public transport to be made disability and elderly friendly, which it is not currently.”

She added that all public sectors would benefit from gender analysis but particularly the education, health, agriculture, social welfare and disability sectors would benefit from looking at gender impact.

Fiji has shown more political interest in recent years to improve gender equality but gender budgeting has yet to be implemented, Deo said. 

The Ministry of Women, however, does conduct a gender analysis but it is not translated into the national budget.

The country’s attorney-general and minister for economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said in Parliament last week that the budget was for “every Fijian family”.

“When Fijian families are strong, united, stable and thriving, the nation is strong, the nation is united, the nation is stable and together the nation succeeds.

And this is a budget that is grounded in the same values that build strong and stable Fijian families: responsibility, integrity, accountability, foresight, and a sense of duty and care for our fellow Fijians,” he said.

Read PF International’s article on gender budgeting and achieving equality through fiscal policy.

CIPFA’s international conference ‘Making a difference: Spending public money wisely’ is in Abu Dhabi this September will also feature a session on gender budgeting. You can book your place here.

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