The government in Fiji has backed down from plans to introduce a 20 cents / litre tax on bottled water designed to curb the tide of luxury mineral water leaving the country for consumers abroad.
Bottled mineral water from Fiji is a multi-million dollar industry, generating over $150 million in revenue per year and employing over 700 people. Despite the abundance of Fijian bottled water on supermarket shelves in the US and Europe, one third of inhabitants on the south Pacific islands still live without access to clean drinking water.
The findings were revealed as part of a BBC Panorama investigation into the controversy surrounding the bottled water industry. It also showed that many Fijians were falling ill and dying of typhoid and other diseases related to contaminated water.
The Fijian government, whilst acknowledging the problem, had announced plans in early July to tax the export of bottled water, saying that water bottling companies should pay duty for exploiting the country’s limited supply of natural resources.
“Mineral water is a scare resource which will deplete, and a fair share of returns has to be passed on to the nation,” said interim finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry.
The tax was later scrapped after weeks of pressure from the water bottling companies who said the Fiji would stand to lose approximately $3million in export revenue each week whilst they halted operations in protest over the new tax.