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People in Pacific Island Nations Try Bartering In Response to Covid19 Economic Crisis

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May 8, 2020

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Image Credit: Pixabay

A photography session for an old carpet? Or two piglets for a kayak? In Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu, people are attempting barters to combat the precarious economic conditions induced by the Covid19 lockdown.

The Pacific island nations have not been hit extremely hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the lockdown has led to severe economic difficulties, as the tourism industry makes up a significant part of these nations’ income. According to the International Monetary Fund, Pacific Island Countries will see a 2.7% decline in growth, and a 40% decline in tourism, which makes up around 34% of the country’s GDP. Though some governments, like Fiji, have offered a stimulus fund, families are still struggling.

Because of this, citizens of these island nations came up with their own unique and popular solution: bartering goods and services. For example, In Fiji, a page called “Barter for Better Fiji” currently has over 120,000 members in a country around 900,000 individuals. However, what’s truly special about this new barter system, is the nonchalant kindness with which people in the Pacific islands use it. “Initially I bartered out of interest, but I now barter to help other people as I noticed that there are many families that need groceries because they have lost their jobs and they don’t have much to trade. I offer them groceries for whatever they are able to trade because I would love to help them,” MacaTabuya, a church pastor from Fiji, told The Guardian.


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What’s also interesting about the resurgence of the barter system in the Pacific Islands, is its history as an indigenous practice. In Fiji, a practice named veisa, would involve the trade of a coveted item between people who lived far from each other. So, the people from the coast would trade their salt for the wild pigs that the people from the highland would bring.

Marlene Dutta, a business skill development consultant, told the Guardian that bartering is also useful, because it helps people save cash. She said, “For many people across the world and Fiji, money will be harder to come by and even harder to stretch out. The idea is to have an avenue where people get some things they need or want without spending money and that will help a lot and save their limited cash for bills, utilities, transport and other things that they need money for.”

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a features writer with The Swaddle, with a focus on cultural commentary and reportage. Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

  1. David Harold Chester

    Socially Just Taxation and Its Effects (17 listed)

    Adam Smith (“Wealth of Nations”, 1776) says that land is one of the 3 factors of production (the other 2 being labor and durable capital goods). The usefulness of land is in the price that tenants pay as rent, for access rights to the particular site in question. Land is often considered as being a form of capital, since it is traded similarly to other durable capital goods items. However it is not actually man-made, so rightly it does not fall within this category. The land was originally a gift of nature (if not of God) for which all people should be free to share in its use. But its site-value greatly depends on location and is related to the community density in that region, as well as the natural resources such as rivers, minerals, animals or plants of specific use or beauty, when or after it is possible to reach them. Consequently, most of the land value is created by man within his society and therefore its advantage should logically and ethically be returned to the community for its general use, as explained by Martin Adams (in “LAND”, 2015).

    However, due to our existing laws, land is owned and formally registered and its value is traded, even though it can’t be moved to another place, like other kinds of capital goods. This right of ownership gives the landlord a big advantage over the rest of the community because he determines how it may be used, or if it is to be held out of use, until the city grows and the site becomes more valuable. Thus speculation in land values is encouraged by the law, in treating a site of land as personal or private property—as if it were an item of capital goods, although it is not (see Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison: “The Corruption of Economics”, 2005).

    Regarding taxation and local community spending, the municipal taxes we pay are partly used for improving the infrastructure. This means that the land becomes more useful and valuable without the landlord doing anything—he/she will always benefit from our present tax regime. This also applies when the status of unused land is upgraded and it becomes fit for community development. Then when this news is leaked, after landlords and banks corruptly pay for this information, speculation in land values is rife. There are many advantages if the land values were taxed instead of the many different kinds of production-based activities such as earnings, purchases, capital gains, home and foreign company investments, etc., (with all their regulations, complications and loop-holes). The only people due to lose from this are those who exploit the growing values of the land over the past years, when “mere” land ownership confers a financial benefit, without the owner doing a scrap of work. Consequently, for a truly socially just kind of taxation to apply there can only be one method–Land-Value Taxation.

    Consider how land becomes valuable. New settlers in a region begin to specialize and this improves their efficiency in producing specific goods. The central land is the most valuable due to easy availability and least transport needed. This distribution in land values is created by the community, after an initial difficult start and not by the natural resources. As the village and city expand, speculators in land values will deliberately hold potentially useful sites out of use, until planning and development have permitted their site-values to grow. Meanwhile there is fierce competition for access to the most suitable sites for housing, agriculture and manufacturing industries. The limited availability of useful land means that the high rents paid being by tenants make their residences more costly and the provision of goods and services more expensive. It also creates unemployment when entrepreneurs find the rents too high for them to operate and employ workers. This speculation causes wages to be lowered by the monopolists, who control the big producing organizations and whose land was previously obtained when it was cheap. Consequently this basic structure of our current macroeconomics system, works to limit opportunity and to create poverty, see above reference.

    The most basic cause of our continuing poverty is the lack of properly paid work and the reason for this is the lack of opportunity of access rights to the land on which the work must be done. The useful land is monopolized by a landlord who either holds it out of use (for speculation in its rising value), or charges the tenant heavily in rent for its right to access. In the case when the landlord is also the producer, he/she has a monopolistic control of the land and of the produce. The product becomes more costly–this monopolist can effectively charge more for it, than what an entrepreneur normally would, were he/she able to compete on an equal basis, because of the excessive rent demanded by the landlord.

    A wise and sensible government would recognize that this problem derives from lack of opportunity to work and earn. It can be solved by the use of a tax system which encourages the proper use of land and which stops penalizing everything and everybody else. Such a tax system was proposed almost 140 years ago by Henry George, a (North) American economist, but somehow most macro-economists seem never to have heard of him, in common with a whole lot of other experts. (I would guess that they don’t want to know, which is worse!) In “Progress and Poverty” 1879, Henry George proposed a single tax on land values without other kinds of tax on produce, services, capital gains, etc. This regime of land value tax (LVT) has 17 features which benefit almost everyone in the economy, except for landlords and banks, who/which do nothing productive and wrongly find that land dominance has its own reward.

    17 Aspects of LVT Affecting Government, Land Owners, Communities and Ethics

    Four Aspects for Government:

    1. LVT, adds to the national income as do all other taxation systems, but it can and should replace them.
    2. The cost of collecting the LVT is less than for all of the production-related taxes—then tax avoidance
    becomes impossible because the sites being taxed are visible to all.
    3. Consumers pay less for their purchases due to lower production costs (see below). This creates
    greater satisfaction with the government’s management of national affairs.
    4. The national economy stabilizes—it no longer experiences the 18 year business boom/bust cycle, due
    to periodic speculation in land values (see below).

    Six Aspects Affecting Land Owners:

    5. LVT is progressive–owners of the most potentially productive sites pay the most tax.
    6. The land owner pays his LVT regardless of how his site is used. When fully developed, a large
    proportion of the ground-rent from tenants becomes the LVT, with the result that land has less sales-
    value but a significant “rental”-value (even when it is not being used).
    7. LVT stops the speculation in land prices and any withholding of land from proper use is not
    worthwhile.
    8. The introduction of LVT initially reduces the sales price of sites, (even though their rental value can
    still grow over long-term use). As more sites become available, the competition for them becomes less
    fierce so entrepreneurs are more active.
    9. With LVT, land owners are unable to pass the tax on to their tenants as rent hikes, due to the reduced
    competition for access to the additional sites that come into use.
    10. With LVT, land prices will initially drop. Speculators in land values will want to foreclose on their
    mortgages and withdraw their money for reinvestment. Therefore LVT should be introduced
    gradually, to allow these speculators sufficient time to transfer their money to company-shares etc.,
    and simultaneously to meet the increased demand for produce (see below).

    Three Aspects Regarding Communities:

    11. With LVT, there is an incentive to use land for production or residence, rather than it being unused.
    12. With LVT, greater working opportunities exist due to cheaper land and a greater number of available
    sites. Consumer goods become cheaper too, because entrepreneurs have less difficulty in starting-up
    their businesses and because they pay less ground-rent–demand grows, unemployment decreases.
    13. Investment money is withdrawn from land and placed in durable capital goods. This means more
    advances in technology and cheaper goods too.

    Four Aspects About Ethics:

    14. The collection of taxes from productive effort and commerce is socially unjust. LVT replaces this
    extortion by gathering the surplus rental income, which comes without any exertion from the land
    owner or by the banks–LVT is a natural system of national income-gathering.
    15. Bribery and corruption on information about land cease. Before, this was due to the leaking of
    news of municipal plans for housing and industrial development, causing shock-waves in local land
    prices (and municipal workers’ and lawyers’ bank balances).
    16. The improved and proper use of the more central land reduces the environmental damage due to a)
    unused sites being dumping-grounds, and b) the smaller amount of fossil-fuel use, when traveling
    between home and workplace.
    17. Because the LVT eliminates the advantage that landlords currently hold over our society, LVT
    provides a greater equality of opportunity to earn a living. Entrepreneurs can operate in a natural
    way– to provide more jobs. Then earnings will correspond to the value that the labor puts into the
    product or service. Consequently, after LVT has been properly introduced it will eliminate poverty
    and improve business ethics.

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