Invest wisely not white elephants

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Think about this. Imagine if the “millions” being wasted on all these publicly funded projects that end up failing are spent instead to encourage the replanting of coconut trees?  

Think of what could happen if every village in Samoa received say $50,000 per village to get the aumaga (untitled men) to go out and plant at least 100,000 new coconuts per month?

And it doesn’t just have to be coconuts. We can do the same with koko Samoa, bananas, taro and whatever food crop that could result in people getting some money and improving their lot.

Let me say this, in the bigger scheme of things, $50,000 is peanuts compared to the “millions” spent on the white elephants we see everywhere in Samoa today. 

There is no doubt that these white elephants are a major contributing factor to the cost of living since someone has to pay for this stupidity and negligence. They play a huge part in the Government’s desperation for revenue so that they have now resorted to taxing Church Ministers and raising the cost of services in most sectors.

Where are these white elephants, some might ask? They are not hard to find, we can tell you that. 

Think about the Salelologa market for example? That building has become an eyesore on the big island given how underutilised it is. They could have just opened a single dwelling building at the fraction of the cost but of course that was not the case. It was constructed as a legacy project which now has failure written all over it. What an utter waste of millions.

But that’s not all.

Remember the Vaitele Market? Remember how the Government, through the publicly-owned National Provident Fund, recently approved a loan of more than $5 million to a Chinese businessman to convert it to a store? That was on top of the $5 million price tag to build, when it was heralded as a “goldmine” for Samoa? Some “goldmine” alright!  

On the other side of Vaitele, another S.N.P.F. building there is also hugely underutilised. It stands as a reminder of such a colossal waste of monies and perhaps a lesson on how not to invest monies.

Up at Tuana’imato, those white elephants are pretty hard to ignore. 

Many of them were built with aid money for once in a while sporting events.

Perhaps the biggest waste of them all was the baseball diamond and the stadium there, which was used no more than five times before it rot to the ground. Millions of wasted monies again. 

The Parliamentary complex called the Tofilau Building at Mulinu’u? Have you seen the state of that building lately? Again millions of tala.

We can go on and on but you get our drift. 

The worst part is that these facilities end up costing the Government more money to maintain which is precisely what has been happening. 

It’s ridiculous and yet they continue to build more. Is anyone keeping a tab on what is going on? When will we ever learn our lessons? 

We always have to remember that not all that glitters is gold. 

Folks, just because some structures look mighty impressive and flash, they don’t necessarily mean they are useful to us and necessary. It doesn’t mean it is the best thing especially for the amount of money spent on them. It’s money – quite often millions - that could have easily paid for extra teachers, doctors and nurses to ensure our people have their absolute basic needs met.

Speaking of basic needs, isn’t it heartbreaking that so many millions are dumped into these white elephants and yet so many people in Samoa don’t have access to water and electricity? Maybe that’s a story for another day.

This week, Agriculture is the focus given the Agriculture Shows and the National Agriculture week. It’s an important time, which has also reminded us about one of the biggest problems in Samoa today, the aging coconut trees.

See, what that means is that people need to start planning again. In the good old days, families would do this without being told. Times have changed and the Government needs to be innovative with its approach. Whether it’s reinvigorating the coconut industry, or whatever farming related issue, people need incentives to move.

Which is why we are thinking about those millions being wasted – rather than being put to good use by giving members of the public incentives to help themselves and their country.

There are many domestic farmers and villagers who are capable of becoming like some of the biggest commercial farmers we have in Samoa. But all they need is a helping hand, some capital to open the door for them.

The Government needs to take the lead. 

Invest wisely, invest in our people, not buildings or those many useless projects. To borrow from the words of a former Member of Parliament and to paraphrase, ‘people don’t eat that stuff’.

Have a wonderful Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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