That $1.1 billion debt and the reality in Samoa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

And so according to the Government’s official figures, Samoa’s total debt stands at $1.1 billion today. This is what the Samoa Bureau of Statistics (S.B.S.) Financial Statistics for the December 2017 quarter say.

Even more interesting are the details. The stats for instance reveal that Samoa’s debt to China is $416 million. That being the case, China is now Samoa’s biggest creditor – which is hardly news given what we know about Samoa and China’s relationship today.

The fact is without China, this country would be in deep, deep trouble. It is simply impossible to imagine how Samoa and this Government could exist without China. 

Now imagine if all the grants were loans. That would totally blow out the amount three times bigger or even more. Keep in mind that China is not Samoa’s only creditor. 

The figures reveal that the country owes the Asia Development Bank; World Bank, Japan and other financial institutions.

So what can we make of this? 

On one hand, it is good to get a picture of the state of Samoa’s debt. After all, it has been a controversial topic for so many years with different figures floating around the place. 

Now looking at other countries and how much they owe, it must be said that $1.1 billion – with $416million owed to China – is not as bad and can probably still be managed. 

But there is also the question of the truth and whether the figures are accurate. You have to take these numbers with a grain of salt. Given that the source of the figures is from the Government, you really have to wonder. 

Indeed, common sense tells us that the Government would not endorse a report that paints a bad picture of Samoa – given everything that has been happening lately. Which means there is always that suspicion.

Still, the figures stack up very well for Prime Minister Tuilaepa who has been downplaying the issue for years.

Listen to him again: “For Samoa, we have our own Debt Management Policy that we watch very, very carefully to ensure that annually we are able to meet our debt service payments.”

“Therefore, it is up to Samoa to carefully gauge its capability to meet its debt obligations and to carefully watch the borrowings that we make from international governments and institutions.” 

“Since all our debts are concessionary, we do not have such problems. We have very strong payment capabilities every year.  Very often for instance in many projects that we do, the construction period is up to 2 years and then we begin to earn revenue to help start paying the loans well, well, well before the grace period ends and the repayment of the loan and interests begin.”

“So there are inbuilt cushions in a county’s debt level capacity, so long as they watch these debts service capacities very carefully and this is why we have institutions like the Central Bank of Samoa to carefully watch our debt obligations.” 

Well fair enough then. Now let us remind once more that Prime Minister Tuilaepa is a very clever man. A holder of two doctorate awards and much, much more in terms of qualifications, he has no match in Samoa or anywhere else in the region – and possibly the world.

He also runs a Government full of extremely intelligent and well-qualified individuals, whom Prime Minister Tuilaepa often refers to as big laui’a. 

But here’s an idea; take all those laui’a people, the debt as has been revealed and look at what is happening on the ground in Samoa and then tell us what you think.

Here is what we see. More and more children are becoming street vendors everyday. Our customary land is under threat from policies driven by desperation. 

Our prized possessions such as matai titles are slowly losing their meaning because they are being bought by anyone who comes to Samoa dangling money.

Anyone with enough money can now buy a Samoan passport. 

The representatives of the sacred “foundation” of Samoa, God, are now being taxed – including the highest position holder on the land, the Head of State.

Samoans are being enslaved by Samoans. Colonization has taken a very different form in the sense that there are no more foreigners but rather our people are being enslaved by the very policies and laws that should help them. 

What do these things tell us?

Are they not acts of desperation by a government that has been turning a blind eye to “corrupt practises,” “mismanagement” and “abuse of public money and resources,” allowing it to run amok for so long that it is now coming back to haunt them in a major way?

Tell us what you think!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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