The Fiji government’s decision to repeal a proposed tax on bottled water has revived concerns that bottled water companies in Fiji are continuing to deplete the islands’ natural resources.
The Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry announced a 20 cent per litre tax on bottled water exported from the country in early July. The impetus behind the tax was to conserve the islands’ natural resources in a country where many people still suffer from contaminated water.
“Mineral water is a scare resource, which will deplete and a fair share of returns has to be passed on to the nation,” said Mr. Chaudhry. He said that “it was about time that water bottling companies pay duty for using Fiji’s mineral water resource”, reported Fiji Village news.
A BBC Panorama investigation in February showed that one third of Fijians do not have access to clean drinking water and many were falling ill and dying from typhoid and other diseases linked to dirty water.
The bottled water tax was proposed to correct this imbalance by stimulating the conservation of water whilst at the same time increasing government revenue.
However, the tax was dropped after pressure from the powerful water bottling lobby which said that the industry would be forced to close, resulting in hundreds of job losses.
The bottled water industry in Fiji accounts for over $150 million per year and employs more than 700 people.