We need to proceed with caution

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It’s true that the chance to host the Pacific Games in 2019 could potentially be a great opportunity for Samoa. And given the short time frame remaining, the government and local authorities will have to move quickly and be proactive.

But let’s not rush into a decision. Let’s slow it down a bit. 

While we know that as a country we have the capability to host these events and host them well too, the leaders of this nation must sit down and do their donkey work before we jump head first into an event taxpayers could end up forking out for.

We are talking about the need for a proper cost and benefit analysis in relation to hosting such big events. Such an analysis will require us to look to the past to determine whether all the major events we have hosted actually added value to the lives of the people of this country. 

Did we benefit from it? Did we make a profit? Or was it a loss? If there was a profit/loss, who was responsible? Should they be held accountable? And if we are to do it again, what could be done differently to achieve a better result?

These are legitimate questions, perfectly normal to ask. You see, far too often we become so excited about hosting such events with the notion that it will automatically inject “millions” of dollars into the economy.

When everything goes according to plan, these events should provide such an injection. They should benefit the host nation. 

But more often than not, history tells us the opposite. The cost often far outweighs any benefits.

Which is why we have to be prudent. We must be cautious that as a country, we take calculated risks, not foolish risks at the whim of someone’s pursuit for fame and glory.

Which brings us back to the events of the past. Given that there have been promises of millions to be generated for the economy, was that the case for Samoa? 

Let’s break it down a bit more.  How much money did we make from hosting the South Pacific Games in 2007? Was it worth it compared to the amount of taxpayer funds and aid money spent?  Think of the S.I.D.S conference a few years ago. Again it cost this country millions of taxpayers and aid money to host. Was it worth all the headaches and the millions in expenses? Did Samoa profit from it? And by how much? Conversely, if we made a loss, how much was it? 

Members of the public deserve to know because up until now, these figures have remained a mystery.

The same questions should be asked about the recent Commonwealth Youth Games we hosted. Sure it was fabulous fun and great excitement but was it worth it? Did we make money from it or not?

Now we accept that when it comes to these events, it’s not always about profits. In some cases, it’s about exposure and promoting Samoa to the world. 

We get that. Besides, when you’ve got the facilities to do it, why not?

But we are not a country with millions to throw away that we can afford to be reckless about these events. 

The official line as always is that these events are good for us; they are great for the country. Sure.

But where is the proof? 

Most of us know what has happened. For the uninitiated, Tonga has withdrawn from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games, opening up the opportunity for Samoa and other countries to put their hands up.

Yesterday, the President of the Samoa Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C.), Fepulea’i Patrick Fepulea’i said he was pretty keen. For good reason.

 “We could step in,” he said, “we have all the facilities to be able to host.” He added that there’s a lot of consultation to take place first before that decision can be made. So let’s wait and see.

Over in Tonga in the meantime, Prime Minister, Akilisi Pohiva, conceded that the move is not a good look for the country but it is necessary.

“It may look embarrassing but as far as Tonga is concerned, the economic and financial situation of the country at the moment, there is no other option but to cancel the sports,” Mr. Pohiva is quoted as saying by R.N.Z.I. “We are being forced by circumstance, by financial and economic circumstance of the day, to do the right thing and the right thing is to cancel.”

That’s a tough one but let me end by saying this. Of course it’s embarrassing for Tonga or any other nation to admit they cannot fulfill a commitment they have made to the international community. 

But at the end of the day, at least they have done themselves a favour and have come to their senses to admit the truth.

This is much more honourable than allowing one’s silly pride to drag a country down the mud knowing full well the consequences and the fact that the burden of losses from such events will always and eventually end up on the poor shoulders of taxpayers. 

This is a lesson for Samoa. 

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us.

Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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