Facing up to Fiji

Bread and circus for the people of Fiji? photo: Mark Heard/flickr

As seems to be the case with most countries that have experienced coups, once the initial furor over the regime change has died down and change is not readily forthcoming, the international media quiets down. Whether this is because a public scolding is not seen as the best way to induce progress towards more democratic rule, or simply because there is nothing headline-grabbing to cover, it is a widely repeated pattern.

The Republic of the Fiji Islands is no exception, with coverage having dwindled following the 2006 coup. This is a shame, as the (interim) government of Commander ‘Frank’ Bainimarama has recently instituted some very interesting policies.

Perhaps inspired by Juvenal’s idea of “bread and circuses”, the 2010 Price Control Order was implemented on 6 Novemver by the Commerce Commission. The Order required that the price of 24 “essential” basic foodstuffs – such as baby food, milk, garlic and edible oils – be reduced by 10-20 percent to a government-set maximum. ‘High-end’ products – such as olive oil – were notably exempt. In updating the 1970 Price Control Order, criticized for its complexity and opacity – so far, so good. However, the circus soon followed.