Debt, corruption and a new type of colonialism

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

How much is too much?

That’s a good question to ask ourselves as we continue to discuss and debate the issue of debt and whether this country can really afford the mountain of foreign debt incurred by Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s administration over the past 36 years.

Don’t get us wrong; we are proud and patriotic Samoans, just like all Samoans out there. We are also grateful for the work that has been done by the government to bring Samoa to where it is in the world today. 

But that pride in ourselves and our country should also bring about a sense of responsibility in as far as preparing Samoa today for future generations and more.

Looking at what is happening today, we cannot be ignorant of the fact that our mounting foreign debt is threatening to bury us all one day in the future. It is a concern that continues to bubble beneath the surface despite the charade and all these impressive structures we see.

Speaking of those, 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.

Now every time the issue of Samoa’s foreign debt is raised and debated, the Government through Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s response is almost always the same. Assuring that all is well, we’ve always been told that it’s not the amount of the debt that matters but rather our ability as a nation to repay it.

Fair enough. But how much is too much? That is the question. For a nation of less than 200,000 people, is it necessary to continue to borrow far beyond what we can afford? 

Now here is what really worries us. Folks we understand that we need to borrow money now and then. 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 continues 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 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. 

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

The point is that the government – as do many businesses – need to borrow money from time to time to prop up its plans and keep the country afloat. 

But this must be done in the most sensible way, taking into account the consequences on our people and the future of this country.

In the past, many people say that Samoa’s debt is nothing compared to other countries like the United States. This is beside the point. Comparing Samoa’s debt to that of the U.S.A. – or any other big country – is no different from comparing oranges with apples. 

The fact is debt – especially it reaches 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 that is our foreign debt today. 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. 

Let me leave you with a parting thought. 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. 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. 

The reality is; give the current leadership another 10, 15 years or even less to continue their defiance and they will pass on eventually. At six feet under, they wouldn’t have to worry about anything. 

The worst part is they cannot be held accountable then. 

And many of us might not even be around then when the chickens come home to roost. It is the future generations of this country who will suffer. 

Do we care about them?

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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