Don’t get us wrong; we are proud and patriotic Samoans, just like all Samoans in this country and all over the world. And after close to 40 years in power, we are grateful for the work that has been done by the Human Rights Protection Party government to develop Samoa to where we are today. There is a lot to celebrate.
But there is also a lot to be concerned about and we cannot be complacent. We have pride in ourselves and we love our country, which is why we should feel duty-bound to prepare a better Samoa to present to our future generations.
Looking at what is happening, we cannot be ignorant of the fact that our mounting foreign debt is a threat that will have serious ramifications on the future of this nation. The fact is debt – especially when it threatens the point where it is unmanageable – will affect everyone. It is our children who will ultimately shoulder the burden. It is they who will be begging for mercy from the lenders.
They are the ones who will have to deal with the mess, they are the ones who might have to give up things that are theirs by birthright, as they struggle to front up to the debtors.
This is a concern that continues to bubble beneath the surface, despite the charade and all these impressive structures we see.
The story on yesterday’s front page of the Samoa Observer is yet another reminder to our leaders about the need to be wise in their decision when it comes to finances. It followed a warning from the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F) that Samoa remains at “high risk of external debt distress.”
The I.M.F. also warned that the Government has breached the “threshold under the baseline scenario for the present value of the public and publicly guaranteed (P.P.G) external debt-to-GDP ratio.”
“The government should continue with efforts to boost revenue collection and consolidate public finances, to be better prepared to respond to a future economic shock or natural disaster,” the warning reads. “Introducing a lower public debt-to-GDP target of 45 percent in the medium term and 40 percent over the longer term would increase fiscal space available to respond to a natural disaster.”
In simple terms, what the I.M.F. is saying is that we have reached a stage where Samoa cannot afford any more debt. Which perhaps explains why the Minister for Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, called for more diligence in acquiring funds at the beginning of the week.
“There’s obviously a lot of interest in the Pacific now from everyone, so it’s really sort of knowing and making sure what we really want, what our development priorities are, and where are the best sort of avenues where we can access funding,” Sili said. “We are a sovereign nation, we make decisions based on our own due diligence of our assessment on what our development priorities are, what our people need going forward.
“I am also an advocate on not focusing on our immediate future, we need to take a longer term perspective, where we want to be as a nation, as a people and then sort of work back and look at where we are now, do we need to change things, and if we need to make changes to get us to where we want to be as a nation to meet the social and economic needs of our people, then I think we need to do that.”
Minister Sili is a wise man. Purely based on what he is saying, we feel a lot safer in his hands with this kind of leadership. We cannot have a Government that continues to do things on a whim. We want leaders with a view on long-term perspectives, not just focusing on winning the next General Election.
To be fair to the Government, it does have a valid point about the need to borrow money for developments to materialise. The reality is that for a small country like Samoa, we simply don’t generate revenues sufficient enough to fund the absolute basic infrastructural developments. This is why borrowing becomes necessary.
That we understand. But the real issue for Samoa is excessive borrowing and this Government’s inability to control spending, which has forced them to continue to borrow.
We’re talking about the leakages in finances created by corruption, collusion, abuse of power and public properties that continue to pile up, given the lack of accountability and transparency in the way these public finances and resources are managed.
Indeed, over the years, we’ve seen how this menace called corruption has been allowed to fester so that today it looks incurable. And it’s not just the major instances of wrongdoing that are alarming. It’s the small things that add up.
It involves the blatant abuse of public properties, such as the practice of pimped-up Government-owned vehicles heading to the farm, with loads of talo shoots and gallons of water in the middle of the afternoon of a weekday, while workers at some Ministry are driving rental vehicles to do the work.
It’s the abuse of government fuel, maintenance costs and the dishonesty in collecting revenue that is vital for development. It is about the public service misusing the internet, printers, phones and basic equipment during work hours – and even after work hours.
And then there is the reckless spending by certain Cabinet Ministers in buildings, that end up becoming white elephants, draining millions of tala that could have been better spent elsewhere.
Today let me remind you again: back in the days, the colonialists came with guns and weapons. That’s not happening anymore. Today, they are offering finances, funding and lots of loans that we will not be able to pay. They are shooting us down with their ideals, values and rules. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the new type of colonialism. It is subtle, more insidious and it feeds on greed, corruption and hunger for power and more.