Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has drilled holes in the Tautua Samoa Party’s Election plan, saying its “weak.”
He has also accused the Opposition leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II, of copying initiatives introduced by the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P).
“It’s a very weak plan,” Tuilaepa told the media yesterday evening. “The worst part is that we don’t know how they are planning to fund all these things.”
Tuilaepa said the difference between the Tautua and the government is that “we don’t take guesses” when they plan developments.
He said everything is calculated and budgeted including ways to finance different projects.
The Prime Minister made the comments in response to an announcement by the Tautua Party on Wednesday, where Party members revealed a number of initiatives they plan to implement if they win the general elections in March.
Among the plans is a National Education Fund proposing free education, increasing the retirement pension to $250 a month, free health care for children, a Medicare insurance scheme among others.
“These are not just words for the sake of making a promise,” Palusalue said during the announcement. “We are committed to implement these measures so that everyone has an equal chance at having a good life. Our people in Samoa deserve this, we owe it to them to deliver.”
But Tuilaepa dismissed the Tautua’s promises saying they lack substance.
Looking at the totality of the Tautua’s Election plan, Tuilaepa said the Opposition Party is winding back the clock. None of their initiatives are new.
For example, children up to the age of five years old are already receiving free medical care.
“So they are turning back the clock,” he said. “The problem I see is that they haven’t done their research properly. They need to do some more research.”
Pointing to the pension for instance, Tuilaepa said the Tautua is wrong because the amount is $135, not $125.
“So for a couple who are both on the pension, they get a total of $3,240 a year. That doesn’t include free medical care and free travel on the government ferries to Savai’i and back.”
Tuilaepa said the Pension Scheme, which is catering for 9,000 people, already costs the government $18million a year. He questioned the wisdom in pumping more money into only a fraction of the population when there are more than 170,000 other Samoans to worry about.
“The biggest issue I see is that they are copying our ideas,” Tuilaepa laughed.
“They are riding in our car. They should have their own car but they are taking a free ride. Why are they campaigning using our initiatives?
“The way I see it, they should stop playing politics using our initiatives. They should come up with their own.”
Tuilaepa added that there is always a need for balance, pointing to the fine line between making promises and the ability to deliver such promises.
For the H.R.P.P, Tuilaepa said his government is solid because they are realistic and they don’t take guesses when it comes to development.
“There should always be a balance,” he said, adding all the promises by the Tautua Party are nothing new.
On Wednesday, the Tautua Party focussed on Social Equality.
“The important issue is everyone gets the same treatment, access to benefits whether you live in Falealupo or Apia,” said Palusalue.
According to him, improving the delivery of health services is a key component for the Tautua Party.
“The H.R.P.P has been in power for more than thirty years and yet this problem remains,” Palusalue said about the long queues at the hospital. “There is no solution… all they are doing is building hospitals but people are not getting the help they need. Our people are waiting for four to six hours to see a doctor. This is unacceptable.
“There will be no more closure at 10 at night. What’s happening now is even with emergencies, they will tell you to wait until the next day. If someone dies, that’s the reality now… we will change all that. A hospital should be 24 hours.”
Afualo Dr. Wood Salele spoke about their plan to set up a Samoa National Education Fund.
“This Fund will finance all the education needs for boys and girls especially at College level where it is most expensive,” said Afualo. “What we are seeing now is that when most students reach senior years, they drop out because parents cannot afford it.”
The Tautua Samoa is also proposing to set up a branch of the National University of Samoa at Salelologa, to cater for the student population in Savai’i.
“It’s a must,” he said.
On the plan to increase the retirement age pension, deputy leader Aeau Peniamina Leavai said the current amount of $125 a month is insufficient.
“We will double that amount,” he said. “It’s a must not only to keep up with the cost of living but it is such an important area. It also reflects how we as a country value the contribution by our elders to the development of Samoa.”