So there you have it folks. Samoa’s international gateway took another step forward yesterday when Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi officially opened the Arrivals Area of the Faleolo International Airport.
The opening is the latest milestone in the $147 million Falelolo International Airport facelift project, which started in November 2015.
Fully funded by the Chinese government, the project will transform the facility from what it used to be into a truly international standard airport, rivaling some of the best in the region.
In fact, it has already done that with the departure section and now the new arrivals area. And once the apron and runaway project is completed, travellers will soon also enjoy aerobridges so they no longer have to endure the boiling sun and torrential rain during boarding and when they arrive. Exciting times.
At the start of the project, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said it is part of Government’s plans to realise the Samoa Airport Authority’s vision of becoming the Pacific hub of air travel.
“It is Government’s hope that more new air carriers will make use of the new Faleolo facilities to push our tourism and trade transport,” Tuilaepa said.
The simple truth is this. No one in their right mind will not get excited about developments that lift the profile of our country and bring us that much closer to fulfill our potential as one of the leaders in the region.
In terms of Samoa becoming the Pacific hub of travel, we have still got a long way to go. Let’s not get that wrong. There is much work that remains to be done.
But this a good steady start. At this point in time, we want to acknowledge with gratitude Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Minister of Works Papali’i Niko Lee Hang and the Government for the vision to persevere with the project amidst many challenges.
We especially want to thank China for providing the funding.
The fact is Samoa would not have been able to afford such a facility without the assistance from China. So thank you to Ambassador Wang Xuefeng, who is the face of China in Samoa, and all the work they are doing.
What can Samoa ever do without China? The completion of the latest phase of the airport would no doubt further cement the solid relationship between the two countries, further strengthening the cooperation and friendship that can only benefit our people.
Since the project started, many questions have been asked about the motives of China and whether there is really a need for such an expensive facility.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa acknowledged this right at the start when he turned his attention to the complaints about the development, in relation to members of the public questioning the cost of the project in relation to Samoa’s ballooning foreign debt.
He said the government couldn’t just sit around while there are concessional loans, which provide opportunities for developments such as the airport.
“No one else will develop Samoa, we have to plan it,” he said. “If we are afraid of it, we will only go backwards and not move forward…”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa has a point. And credit must be given to his government for the foresight, wisdom and courage to push for such developments.
We would be lying though if we said we are not concerned about the state of the foreign debt. Of course we are concerned.
With all these flash facilities, someone will have to pay for it. Our children, their children and their children’s children are the ones who will suffer.
Don’t get us wrong. These projects are potentially sound when they are well run.
But they could easily become disasters when the planning is poor and when they are built with the wrong motives.
So far all we’ve heard is that with the new multi-million-tala airport, Samoa is pushing to have the biggest, the best and the most impressive airport facility in the Pacific region.
Which is okay but do we need to? Do airports attract tourists? Are the thousands of tourists flooding to Tahiti, Fiji and Cook Islands going there because of their airports? We don’t think so.
Which is what worries us. With such an impressive facility – and mighty expensive too – it has to be commercially viable to sustain itself. Any less will mean the burden will fall on taxpayers shoulders which is the last thing we need.
The reality is we need more airlines to fly to Samoa to use that airport. To do that, this country, and this government, will need to do a lot more than opening an impressive airport to bring them here. Which means there is a lot more work to be done up ahead.
So let’s celebrate this milestone but lets looking at making sure it is worth the price tag and that we don’t end up worse off.
What do you think?
Have a great Friday Samoa, God bless!