Residents of Lajonia Get Insight on Cost of Living
The Residents of Lajonia community in Labasa were given an insight on the reality of cost of living on Friday. The community session which is part of Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (FCCC) ongoing community engagement was facilitated by the chief executive officer Joel Abraham amidst more than 70 people in attendance.
In addressing the community members, Mr Abraham explained the issue of cost of living and how the issue can be tackled by consumers.
He informed them on how the price regulation role undertaken by FCCC contributes to the affordable cost of living in Fiji.
Responding to questions by people
Responding to questions by people, Mr Abraham explained that cost of living is more than the prices of goods in a supermarket, it relates to transportation, phone costs, internet charges, clothing, education, and other general categories where people spend. Moreover, through various policy mechanisms FCCC has sought to remove volatility from prices to avoid price shocks. He explained that mobile calls and internet charges had reduced through the liberalisation of access into the Southern Cross network cable; travel costs such as bus fares, electricity prices, water, postal services prices have remained constant over several years as these are regulated by FCCC.
It is easy to focus on supermarket goods; however, it is important to note that Fiji is a price taker.
Internationally, prices increase and as such FCCC ensures that the increases are capped so consumer will not end up paying more than the controlled prices.
It is important to ensure the survival of the business community as well.
It is unfair to say that supermarket owners and vendors are purposefully increasing prices.
In fact, the private sector is working with FCCC to ensure better prices for consumers. FCCC has changed its approach to focusing more on promoting competition which leads to sustainable solutions in terms of prices for the Fijian market.
One only needs to pick up the local newspapers to see multiple pages of advertisements being put out by supermarkets.
Mr Abraham explained that it’s easy for people to say that prices can be increased or reduced but in reality it’s not the case as FCCC needs to independently and fairly assess the prices to ensure that we are fair on the business and the consumer.
Role of FCCC
It is the role of the FCCC to look into such matters. He added that the price of certain items fluctuates due to number of reasons, such as, the importation cost, processing cost, cartage cost and so forth.
He stated that Fiji is a price taker as majority of the items are imported in Fiji.
He also explained that while the prices of items increase at times, it decreases as well.
This is based on the international prices of items which are beyond Fiji’s control. However, FCCC continues to look for best practices for pricing to ensure consumer affordability. Mr Abraham encouraged the members of the community to be smart consumers and urged them to always ask questions.
About false promises
He highlighted that consumers should not be misled by misinformation and misconceptions but rather analyse every information being shared and make their own informed decisions.
The community people were told to question information which do not make sense and not to give in to false promises.
As far as concerns regarding cost of living, pricing of goods etc. is concerned, they can always revert to FCCC for clarifications rather than being swayed by wrong information regarding pricing of goods.
Further, emphasis was placed on the importance of demanding for receipts and retaining receipts, exercising consumer responsibility when shopping and voicing concerns when they come across issues so that matters affecting consumers can be highlighted and addressed accordingly.
Pradeep Maharaj who organised the session at his residence said that it was an eye opener for many as it gave a realistic picture of pricing of goods and services in Fiji. It also allowed the community members to seek clarifications on matters affecting them directly with the CEO.
Mr Maharaj added that the session was very knowledgeable and as consumers they will need to start exercising their rights and responsibilities.
The FCCC has assured the community people that such educational forums are not one off and shall continue to take place. Being an independent statutory body and as an apolitical organisation, it is FCCC’s role to educate members of the public on its operational functions, give them the correct information and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities consumers.
The community session which is part of Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (FCCC) ongoing community engagement was facilitated by the chief executive officer Joel Abraham.