Friday, March 25, 2005

Filling Government Coffers or Children's Bellies?

You have to stand up for yourself



Niger's capital came to a halt this week as a stay-home protest against a tax on staple goods like flour and milk closed shops and markets and kept traffic off the streets.
The protest was the second in a week called by some 30 groups gathered in a "coalition against costly living" that includes trade unions and human rights and consumer groups.
The coalition, which last week claimed to have rallied the biggest protest ever seen in Niamey, is demanding the government withdraw a law introduced in January's budget which slapped 19% Value Added Tax (VAT) on everyday items such as flour, milk and sugar, as well as on water and electricity.
Last Tuesday a crowd of up to 20,000 protesters marched through the capital city of Niamey to pressure the government to reduce the price of basic foods and goods. The change of tactics to a stay-home protest came after authorities refused to authorise a second street march.
More than 60% of the landlocked semi-desert nation's 11 million people live on less than a dollar a day. And last year's locust invasion coupled with poor rainfall has already led to worrisome food shortages.
Despite this the government is standing firm and says the hikes are needed to fill government coffers and reduce deficits.- IRIN news

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