Why tomorrow’s public holiday is bitter sweet

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The private sector and members of the Chamber of Commerce have a legitimate complaint. 

Since Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malieleaoi’s Government often refers to them as the “engine of economic growth,” they should stop paying lip service to their concerns and start taking them very seriously.

For when it comes to anything with an engine, we must ensure the engine is well oiled, that all the parts are serviced and functioning for efficiency and performance. A negligence attitude towards maintenance and up keep means we run the risk of sudden failure and total collapse. 

In terms of growing the economy, that appears to be where Samoa is heading with this Government’s dictatorial behaviour and recklessness when it comes to decision-making involving the private sector. 

Time and time again, we hear cries from the private sector, through the Chamber of Commerce and other relevant bodies, about their wish to be consulted on issues that affect them. Surely that is not such a big ask.

Perhaps the Government feels it is invincible and that they can do whatever they want. 

From what we see, the Government sometimes forget that unlike them who will always have the endless stream of publically funded coffers to maintain their luxurious lifestyles, it doesn’t work like that for the private sector. 

Members of the business community actually have to earn their money survive.

Every little sene counts especially given today’s precarious business environment where so many businesses are struggling to stay afloat and pay their debts.

Which means that if the Government is serious about creating an enabling environment to foster growth for the private sector, they have got to be more considerate with their decision-making. 

They need to take on a more consultative approach so that the business community is not treated to unwanted and costly surprises.

Speaking of costly surprises, last week, the Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns about the number of ad-hoc public holidays – including tomorrow’s 56th Independence public holiday.

The concerns were raised in a letter to Prime Minister Tuilaepa signed by the Chamber’s President, Jennifer Ula-Fruean. 

 “Businesses will face severe cash flow challenges due to the sudden removal of a trading day which they had not previously planned for; eliminating potential revenue for that day while the cost of staff wages and salaries remains,” the letter reads. 

“Businesses that do trade on that day are forced to continue with a trading day at higher cost per staff input (i.e. costs rise but productivity doesn’t).”

Some of the worst hit companies are among the biggest employers in Samoa.

Some of them have payrolls of more than $30,000 a day, which means the cost of a productive tomorrow becomes extremely excessive. 

And how exactly can the Government justify making tomorrow another public holiday? Was Friday not enough? Did public servants not get a rest on Saturday and Sunday?

Why bother the poor private sector with another burden they don’t need. A public holiday is great for employees but it is absolutely a waste of a day for employers. It’s because they are paying money for nothing.

Now who wants that? 

If the Government were run like a private business, would they do the same? 

Of course not. These people would never do that if this was their own money.

Which is where the problem lies. While everyone – including the private sector is taxed to the bone – the Government doesn’t have to worry about their expenses. 

Taxes ensure that these guys will always get paid, even if they take a holiday. 

It is also why they don’t care how many public holidays they declare. They are not paying for it so why should they lose sleep over it?

Sadly, you can’t say the same thing about the private sector. Which is why tomorrow’s public holiday will be a bitter-sweet moment for many of the business community in Samoa. How can they continue to hold on?

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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