The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.) has denied that it has suspended the registration of foreign investors in light of recent concerns expressed about the influx of Asian-owned businesses.
Contrary to media reports, the Acting Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of M.C.I.L, Lisi Faletutulu-Asuao, the registration of foreign investors is continuing.
“Generally speaking, as part of its regulatory and compliance role, M.C.I.L. conducts regular inspections and investigations to ensure businesses comply with the Foreign Investment Act 2000,” an email response from M.C.I.L. said.
“There is no investigation being conducted by M.C.I.L. and there is no suspension on the registration of foreign investors.”
M.C.I.L. was contacted for a comment following reports that the registration of foreign businesses and investors had been placed on hold as the Ministry reviews concerns about the influx of Chinese-owned businesses.
Last week, the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, called on the government to revisit the question of what type of businesses foreign investors should be encouraged to invest in.
Sili made the point in response to questions from the Sunday Samoan about his village of Salelologa banning the establishment of any Chinese-owned business on their customary land.
The Minister of Finance said the issue of foreign-owned businesses springing up in the villages is an important matter to consider for the future.
“You see if the Chinese businesses are allowed to spread out to the villages, in the next 30 years, I don’t think we will have any more Samoan-owned businesses,” he said.
“So it’s something that should be considered. I wonder if now is not the time to allocate designated areas for those particular businesses in the town area because everyone can access them.”
Sili said the government cannot shy away from addressing the issue because it is a threat if it’s ignored.
“I think it’s important that we have to look at this for the long run to avoid any clashes between our people and the Chinese. I think there is also a lot work to be done in talking to the Chinese about running businesses in Samoa.
“They are used to running their businesses from 6am until midnight but we’re not like that. I also believe there are issues where we can learn from the Chinese.
“So it’s very important to revisit this issue.”
Asked if he supports his village’s decision to ban Chinese businesses, Sili was coy.
“I can’t say if it’s a good move or not because it has just happened. What I can say is that we’ve known for a while now that there have been a lot of criticisms about the influx of Chinese businesses.
“There is also the question what types of businesses do we want investors- Chinese – to bring.
“My personal opinion is that the Chinese should be encouraged to establish businesses that are not being operated by our people. They can set up commercial farms and the like but they shouldn’t do the same thing as the people of Samoa because it becomes so hard for our people to compete.
“The government should really take a look at what kind of businesses foreign investors should start.”