Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi says the Government has nothing to hide when it comes to its total debt, which stands at $1.01 billion today.
“We don’t hide anything, everything is out in the open, you can get the figure from our Central Bank,” Tuilaepa said.
“Even if it reaches many billions, we’ll still publicise it. Why? We’ve got nothing to hide.”
Tuilaepa said the debt is the result of the Government working hard to develop the country and as long as that is the case, there will be nothing secretive about it.
His comments were in response to an article published in the Samoa Observer over the Samoa Government’s debt to China, which has increased from $315.16 million in 2013 to $410.01 million in 2017.
The debt to China is a major part of the Government’s total debt.
The Ministry of Finance’s Statement of Borrowing issued under the Public Accounts for the years 2013 to 2017 confirmed this.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa explained that Samoa needs to borrow money.
“Developments are being funded by taxes, duties, aid and loans from overseas. Developments don’t wait until we collect enough revenues and then we do it. No if we were to do that, then we’ll have absolutely nothing,” he said.
“A lot of this stuff that we’re not doing is not different from what happens in the villages. You know sometimes when they build a church and they cannot complete it, they go and take out a loan.”
The Government, he said, is no exception.
He reassured members of the public there is nothing to worry about.
“We have a plan. A lot of the loans are from the world’s biggest banks where we are given between thirty to fourty years to pay them off.
“On top of that, there are also long grace periods, about five to ten years and the loans come with very small interest.”
Tuilaepa said the common misconception by some people is that they think “we have to pay them all off by next year.”
“This is not the case. The most important thing when it comes to loans is how much are we paying on an annual basis. That‘s how you measure the Government’s economic strength.
“The second thing is that we have enough foreign reserves and we do.”
According to Tuilaepa, it is not the amount of the loan that matters. Rather it is the Government’s ability to meet its repayments.
“So I don’t why they keep bringing this up,” he said about the media coverage of the debt.
“The only good reason I can think of is so that people can appreciate and understand why the Government sometimes do things like ask the Head of State to pay his tax.
“See we ask the Head of State that since he’s got the highest salary (in Samoa), we will cut something from it so he can contribute to the development (of the country).”
The Prime Minister added that this is why it is critical that everybody pays their taxes.
“So the current Head of State, he just smiles and says thank you Tuilaepa for allowing me to contribute to the development (of Samoa).”
The Prime Minister also commended the Minister of Revenue Tialavea Tionisio Hunt and his team.
“Their job is the most hated role as tax collectors.
“During the consultation period, Tialavea and his team met Church Ministers and after their meetings, they were asked to conduct a prayer of blessings for the tax collectors and the church ministers did as they were requested.”
Despite being hated, Tuilaepa said tax collectors must do their job.
“Without the taxes, we will not be able to cater to our health needs, pay the salary of teachers and fix the roads.
“Even I pay taxes, and it is something that should be done to help with our developments.”