Disabled will not be left behind: PM
Government is determined to leave no Fijian behind including the disabled, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says. He was addressing the people of Ba during consultations yesterday.
He said that efforts in the 2016/2017 Budget to maximise the employment opportunities of the disabled was a major focus area. “I am proud of the Budget provision that provides a 300 percent tax deduction to any employer who hires a disabled person for the first three years of their employment,” he said.
“This will open up all sorts of opportunities for disabled people to obtain work and I urge employers to embrace this new era of inclusion and empowerment.”
He urged those with disabilities to stand up for themselves and make the most of the opportunities. Mr Bainimarama said the first two rows of seats on all public buses would be set aside for those with special needs.
Meanwhile, sixty-nine-year old Philip Michael Fillipo is thankful to Government for hearing the plight of persons living with disabilities. Mr Filipo, who has been confined to a wheelchair because of an accident in 1972, is currently a member of the Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons and has been part of the organisation since its early years.
He was reacting to the allocations made to people living with disabilities in the 2016-2017 Budget announcement made in Parliament on Wednesday. “I thank the Government, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance for thinking of people living with disabilities and giving them an opportunity to better themselves from what they are now,” he said. Mr Filipo said some of the challenges he faced over the years was accessibility as a paraplegic. “It would be nice if Government could talk to transport providers for them to bring in these buses that are accessible to people with wheelchairs.
“It’s not only the wheelchair people; the elderly and those who use walking sticks.” Mr Filipo, who had worked in Parliament and a former Registrar of Titles, has urged employers to see the potential in people living with disabilities. Mr Filipo has also called on supermarkets and sporting facilities to include ramps or wider walkways for people confined to wheel chairs. “I’m really glad that the Government is coming in now with not only being vocal but doing things that raises the bar,” he said. “Most of them would have families, some of them already have families but they can’t afford themselves only if they had a better job.” Visually impaired Milika Roro who works with FNCDP, shared similar sentiments in thanking the Government for recognising the needs and wants of persons living with disabilities. “For me personally when I heard the Budget announcement last night (Wednesday night) that we the council have been given an allocation,” she said. FNCDP executive director Dr Sitiveni Yanuyanutawa said the announcement of the Budget brought a spirit of Christmas to them. “We were so happy of what had been allocated for us,” Dr Yanuyanutawa said.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama (right), with Commissioner Western Manasa Tagicakibau, in Ba yesterday.