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Garment Industry Labels Democracy Calls Blackmail

Issue No: 74; 1 October 2000

Garment Industry Labels Democracy Calls 'Blackmail'

The garment industry has labelled calls by Australia for democracy in Fiji as blackmail.

An interim regime news release applauded the remarks made by the President of the Clothing, Textile and Footwear Council, Ranjit Solanki.

Solanki had, according to the news release, commended the Interim Foreign Affairs Minister, Kaliopate Tavola for his "good works for the garment industry." The regime claimed that Solanki was "responding to the Cabinet statement regarding the Interim Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kaliopate Tavola's talks with his Australian counterpart, Alexander Downing regarding the garment industry, described as some sort of recognition to the Interim Government."

The regime press release stated:

"Mr Solanki went on to say, that Australia's refusal to remove their smart sanctions unless they were satisfied on the conditions given to the interim government was followed, was 'purely blackmail'."

The garment industry employs about 17,000 workers in Fiji.

Allegations of worker underpayment and exploitation in the garment industry have been rife in Fiji since 1986. Calls for better working conditions have been made by trade unionists, ngo's and women's groups. Previous attempts at unionisation of the industry were unsuccessful. In 1999, however, after the Peoples Coalition government came to power, some bigger firms in the industry responded to the calls by the Fiji Trades Union Congress by allowing unionisation.

The garment industry had started growing in the country after the post-1987 military coup regime began a tax-free package in 1989. The tax free period ran for 13 years.

A World Bank report on tax incentives in Fiji, commissioned by the SVT government, had recommended that the tax free system should be replaced by a more transparent incentive scheme. The Peoples Coalition government had announced that the tax free scheme would be reviewed and a new tax and incentive package would be announced in November during the 2001 budget presentation.

END

1 October 2000


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