The construction of the half million tala temporary market for Savalalo vendors, may be delayed.
This is according to the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell in an interview with the Samoa Observer.
“The government can’t go on with the temporary market because the Apia Waterfront Project is expected to start at the end of this year,” Lautafi said.
“We don’t want to come up with a plan now as they (vendors) might be asked to relocate again and that will only waste money.
“The government is still keen to help out the vendors; that’s our priority that we are working on now.
Stated in the budget 2017/2018, the Apia Waterfront Development project is expected to commence construction next year and the New Zealand government is contributing $3.56m towards that project.
“So we are still looking at a very sustainable, long term solution for them (vendors) but the fact of the matter is, that we can’t go on with the plan because the Waterfront Project is expected to start construction at the end of this year or beginning (of next year).
“As I mentioned earlier, we don’t want to build the market and then end up having to move again after two month of construction.
“The government has requested the government of New Zealand to start off the project from where the Savalalo market recently stood. I believe they’re working on it now because this (request) needs to go through their Minister.
Lautafi confirmed that it took twelve months to complete the project at the site.
“We are looking at allocating some of the vendors to the A.C.C. Market and other places to continue on with their businesses so we can make a move on building up the market for them.
At the beginning of this year, Cabinet approved 500,000 tala to build a temporary market for the vendors’ and the work was expected to start this month.
Looking back, when the flea market in Apia burned down in mid-January last year, more than a few people also had to witness how their livelihood went up in smoke.
With support of the Samoa Land Corporation, a new, but only temporary market was built.
Back then, each vendor was provided with $1,000 as a compensation amount by the government.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa told the vendors that close to five million tala has been expended by the government for the vendors through the cash payments and the cost of erecting the temporary market.
Since then, not much has happened to the newly opened market. The installation of a gigantic tent at the place does not really keep the rain out, but definitely keeps the heat in.
Sales pitches take place in the almost dark and certainly sticky atmosphere, where Samoa’s tourists barely can distinguish the traditionally manufactured handcrafts from each other.
A situation that especially bothers some of those, who have to resign themselves to it – the vendors.
“The whole place is very tight. There’s one block of stalls, but it is shared by many different vendors,” says Fieta Tuala. The woman from Vaimoso also shares her stall with a colleague at the flea market.
The place is narrow, winding alleys are what affects the business in a negative way, with a decreasing number of customers as a result.
“The customers are forced to look at one stall only for a few seconds until they move on to the next one. It is just too tight to sell our handcrafts to the people,” Tuala explains.
She also complained about the amount of money Samoa Land Corporation gave away after the flea market was reopened. “They gave us a thousand Tala to cover all the damage, but that’s not enough.
"The goods that were burnt were worth three or four thousand.”
What was initially described as a temporary solution for the traditional market in Apia, has now become a daily routine for the vendors.
But this daily routine with all its new problems is one that Fieta Tuala cannot accept.
“They should rebuild the place in the way it was before [the fire].
"It is too hot and dark in here and without the right amount of space, we cannot properly talk to our customers. Also, the rain comes in easily because the tent is leaking right above our stall.”
As for the market’s future, Fieta Tuala feels slightly at the government’s mercy concerning the current situation. “We just come and try to sell our things here and we can only listen to what the government tells us”.
With this opinion, she is not alone at the flea market. Nimarofa Saufoi from Fagalii Uta is another one of those vendors who faced up to the fact that his workplace might never be equal again to where he used to work.
“I lost everything in the fire. I do not know when the government is going to rebuild the old market, but at least, we have a place to sell our stuff, which is okay to me.
It was a good support from the government to give everyone thousand Tala to restart the business but […] now the market should be rebuilt and put in the right place where we have enough space to also store our stuff”.
But there are also vendors at the temporary flea market which are satisfied with the current situation. Nervin Laauli from the village of Vaiusu is one of them.
The young man describes the market nowadays as “the better place” to run his business. “There were different shop vendors at the old market, but at the moment, I have more customers then I had before, so there’s nothing to complain about for me. I also have no problem with the heat. The other market was hot as well”.