Is Samoa still a democracy? What is there for the poor?

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Is Samoa still a democracy, the way of life that ensures fairness, classlessness, consensus and social equality, will always prevail no matter what?

We’re not sure.

All we know is that in rural Samoa today, where many families have been living in squalor all these years, they would have been denied their basic needs for far too long, and yet they’d still not raised a peep of a complaint.  

That way their patience would have been a miracle for sure for crying out loud, and that they never complained, so that the question remains: What are those basic needs of theirs anyway?

Decent houses, clean water, emough money that ensures the children are enrolled in school, reliable electricity as well as healthy food, which, in this day and age, are the prerequisites that ensure civil societies like ours are assured of being able to maintain at all times, lives that are lively, productive, peaceful and happy.

And that is what the column called “Village Voice”, that is published daily in your newspaper, the Samoa Observer, is all about. It is about addressing those basic needs wherever - and whenever – they arise in the hope that our government would treat this matter, with the urgency that it rightly deserves.

Indeed, it should do so while bearing in mind that since abject poverty had surely been hurting those families back there in the villages all those years, the thing to do now is mend the damage that had been caused, and let’s move on.   

And how is the damage to be mended?

Well that is for the government to figure out. 

On the other hand, if our opinion was sought, we would suggest that those “basic needs” – especially a clean water supply to every home that does not have one in place - should be attended to now.  

In addition, perhaps the government should look into setting up a loan scheme where families can borrow money so that they can build better homes, and have clean water and reliable electricity supply, in those homes.

After all, if the government is prepared to take from the public purse millions of Tala, and then lend them to business owners and corporations, knowing well that by doing so it was giving them the chance to become multi-millions at the public’s expense, who is the government to deny that poor family in the village the change to own a fridge, and their son the attend school?

Now let’s see. 

A Chinese businessman has been granted a loan of $5.7 million by the government to turn the money-gorging, government-owned Vaitele Market, into a profitable venture.

Borrowed from the government-owned, Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.), the money is bound to make the Chinese businessman, whose name is Tu’itu’ioaiga Teeking Weng, a wealthy man in no time.

As it turned out though, Mr Weng’s business dealings in Samoa, is shrouded in secrecy. 

Apart from the company’s name, Super Wing Samoa Limited, the company statement shows it has been dealing with the S.N.P.F. since 2016, and it had an initial transfer of $412,119.40. 

A statement from S.N.P.F. said: “The details of individual loan accounts are protected by confidentiality and cannot be made public.”

It also said: “We can assure our members and clients that their account details can only be accessed by the client themselves.”

Fine.

Now let’s move on to the next client who has just borrowed from the government. It is Gold Star Company Limited, and it has borrowed $7 million from the government’s Accident Compensation Corporation (A.C.C.)

Revealed the A.C.C. Minister of State, Lautafi Fio Purcell, sometime ago: “I can confirm that the Accident Compensation Corporation is buying the building at that cost $7million. 

And having said so, he added: “I am quite confident that the government will generate good returns from its investment.”

We don’t doubt that either, and if he’d been kind enough to ask for our opinion there and then, we would have told him precisely that. 

What we cannot be sure about though was when he said: “The market price given to us at first was $9.5 million but we managed to bargain down a lot ... I mean we had to really bargain hard.”

So hard it seemed, according to Minister Lautafi Fio Purcell, so that finally he admitted: “In fact, the family was nearly at a point where they did not want to sell their property to A.C.C.”

Well, wouldn’t that be an unforgivable mistake, as Lautafi would later reveal.

Lautafi said: “The purchase had to be approved by Cabinet first and foremost, the A.C.C. wants this (building) so that they use it to generate more money.”

Wonderful!

 Explained Lautafi: “The building is fully occupied by ten tenants and they are very good tenants.

 “The money that the A.C.C. will receive from the building is way better than taking this money and depositing it in the bank for return.”

 “This is a good investment for our people.”

Lautafi went on to reveal “there are other options the government is looking at to generate more profits from the building.

 “That includes a car park on the top, or possibly other shops, but that is for the future. It all depends.”

 “As you can see the building is right in the middle of town and so people are buying stuff everyday.”

Finally Lautafi explained: The Corporation’s mission is to create a sustainable accident compensation scheme and to be more responsive to the needs of the scheme beneficiaries.

And lastly, there’s the Salelologa Market, yet another victim of the government’s sheer management ineptitude, and a wonderful example of how encroachingly real bureaucratic corruption has become, if you really want our opinion. 

Poor Minister, Lautafi Fio Purcell!

It looks as if trying to explain what had caused the sad demise of one of our government’s pride and joy, the Salelologa Market, is causing him so much sadness he feels like crying.    

“It’s been very slow other than when it was initially opened,” he explains. “It’s been going downhill; almost running at a loss.” 

And then he points out: “One problem is that people just come and go without paying their outstanding balance, so it’s just debts that we are looking at without good returns.”

How sad!

How utterly sad!

And there are the empty benches.

Laughed one Salelologa resident, Lautafi points out: “The benches are mostly used for people to sleep on. And public transport is not regular.” 

Still Lautafi is one heck of an optimistic chap. 

He said: “There are other options like relocating the market somewhere but build the town in here (where the market’s located) as a centre, like T.A.T.T.E. for all the government services.

 “The other side would be business and a bus terminal so there would be a smaller market. These are just some of the things that I’m thinking of now.

“If all of these things are done, where businesses cover the other side and people come to work here every day, then I think that would be a fresh start for the market. But that’s for the near future.”

As for today, it’s best to just sit and listen to what Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielgaoi, has to say. 

After all, this is his kind of mission. 

Naturally, he knows.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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