Serious concerns have been raised by many people after a newsletter that was prepared by the Head of the Catholic Church Of Fiji, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, and distributed widely, was found to have had misleading and outdated information.
Fijivillage has received a copy of the newsletter, The Proclaimer which contains Archbishop Chong’s message.
The message was read out by all the priests at all Catholic parishes around the country yesterday.
In Archbishop Chong’s message which was read out to all the parishioners yesterday, he says that VAT has been increased from 12.5% to 15% which he said was increasing the cost of living for the poor, the government has regressive taxation which is taxing the poor and helping the rich since 2006, the Employment and Unemployment Survey says that in Fiji overall poverty increased from 30% to 45%, in rural areas poverty increased from 34% to 55%, in urban areas poverty increased from 25% to 35% and that the poverty of employees not covered by FNPF increased from 50% to 60%.
After analysing the data presented by Archbishop Chong to all the priests who then read out the same information at all the Catholic churches, Fijivillage has received confirmation after assessing the official statistics that the poverty and taxation statistics being quoted in the newsletter are factually incorrect.
The official statistics on poverty are compiled and released by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics.
Poverty statistics are usually sourced from the Household Income and Expenditure Survey.
Official numbers show a declining trend – 35% in the 2002/2003 Survey to 31% in the 2008/2009 Survey and 28.1% in the 2013/2014 Survey.
Archbishop Chong’s message claims that the numbers have been sourced from the Employment and Unemployment Survey but these surveys do not capture poverty numbers.
Similarly rural poverty has also declined to 36.7% in the 2013/2014 Survey from 43% in the 2008/2009 Survey and 40% in 2002/2003 Survey while urban poverty is around 19.8% in the 2013/2014 Survey, declining from around 28% in the 2002/2003 Survey.
Fijivillage also confirms that VAT is 9% and has not been increased to 15%.
The income tax threshold is also $30,000 which means people who earn $30,000 or less do not pay income tax.
In his message in the newsletter, Archbishop Chong says as their bishop he does not intend to tell them whom or against whom to vote.
He says the church’s role is to help Catholics form their conscience in accordance with God’s truth.
Archbishop Chong further says that during the month of October, he will use the Sunday Homilies to help people form their conscience and practice their political responsibility.
We are currently trying to speak to Archbishop Chong about the misleading and outdated statistics that has been shared in all the Catholic churches in the country.
His office says they will send him a message that we are seeking this clarification from him.
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