The Samoan Government “is more than able to pay off their debts,” says Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in response to Samoa Observer questions on the Samoa Bureau of Statistics Quarterly Report, which indicates “government debts remained at $1.1 billion in December 2016.”
He also attacked the reporter who wrote the article titled “Is the govt. broke? Minister says no” published on the Sunday Samoan’s front page last week and calling her work “stupid.”
Obtained by the Samoa Observer, the S.B.S. Quarterly Report showed that loans granted based on multilateral agreements aggregated to $539.7 million, loans based on bilateral agreements with foreign governments amounted to $481.2 million, and domestic loans came up to $34.1million. Tuilaepa however maintained that it is not the amount of the debt that’s important, it’s paying for it that is important.
“That’s what you (reporters) need to look at.... despite how much the debt is. It won’t be paid tomorrow, it won’t be paid off this year, it’s spread out to 30 or 40 years. That’s what most of the reporters don’t understand; it’s not the totality, but whether it can be paid.... and the government is more than able to pay off their debts.”
Tuilaepa then went on to say that it’s difficult for the reporters to “understand, as this is not what you’re trained for...so when you see a publication with a huge debt amount, you’re shocked but you forget the debts won’t be paid off tomorrow.”
The Prime Minister then addressed the word “broke” and asked what the meaning of it was.
“Firstly has the country gone back to eating chicken backs? That’s not happening.
“Also nobody would be smoking anymore, but there’s a lot of cigarettes and the stores are fully stocked...... I read the article and I thought, how stupid can this report be...?” Press Secretary, Lave Tuiletufuga intervened, and stated the need to look at the ability to repay the debts.
Tuilaepa then asked who wrote the article and laughed out loud when the reporter responded she wrote the article.
The Prime Minister fetched a budget book from Fiscal Year 2009, however when the request was made for a copy of the budget book, his response was “none of you would understand, I have showed it how many times to the reporters.
“All the loans are tabled by parliament, and for every loan there are repayment plans.” Tuilaepa explained the external debt servicing is $18million added with the exchange rate fluctuation of $1.4million, which will total up the external debt of $19.4million.
“Then we come to domestic debt, its $8million then total of debt services to be paid for that year is $28million. That’s what it means when looking at the totality of the loan; it’s the capacity to pay.” Tuilaepa suggested that a budget book from the Treasury office should be uplifted and given it to someone who “can actually read a budget book.”
He said even during parliament, the budget is read over and over yet the Ministers still don’t understand.
“That’s an indication that these issues are relatively difficult, and you are writing about issues well beyond your comprehension. That’s why when I am harsh and highly criticized for it, but I am harsh because I am tired of dealing with incompetent people. I believe if you come here more often, you will be smarter,” he told the reporter.
As reported earlier, the financial report indicates other outstanding total debt with institutions such as Asian Development Bank, World Bank, OPEC, FAO and the European Investment Bank, had been reduced by 5.3 percent or $30.5 million, with 94.4% of total multilateral debt, owed to the ADB and World Bank, respectively.
The report says the loans to the People of the Republic of China, and Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), decreased from December 2015 by $30.4 million, and that the drop in bilateral loans reflects the decrease of debt, owed to the Chinese government by $32.7 million.
There is no information as to how much is owed.
The report however says that the domestic debt amounted to $41.0 million, and the outstanding amount had been reduced by $7.5 million, from last year.
Further, the report says the central budgetary government operations for the second quarter of the Fiscal Year 16/17 recorded a surplus in net lending/borrowing balance of $5.7 million.