The government of Australia will fund the construction of five bridges – including the reconstruction of the Leone Bridge – it was revealed yesterday.
The A$1.4million (T$2.52m) financial support was announced by Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, yesterday.
She met with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and they signed a new aid partnership arrangement for Australia’s bilateral aid programme to Samoa.
Ms. Bishop was accompanied by Senator Concetta Fierravanti – Wells, Minister of International Development and the Pacific and their respective Opposition counterparts, Shadow Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong; and Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Claire Moore.
According to Ms. Bishop, the partnership agreement focuses on economic development, good governance as well as education and health.
“We are committed to ensuring that Samoa is able to grow its economy, provide more job opportunities particularly for young people,” she said.
“We are investing in programmes that drive private sector growth because we need to see more private sectors establishing businesses to provide more opportunities for people of Samoa.”
Ms. Bishop said Australia is mindful Samoa continues to experience extreme climate events such as flooding and cyclones. This means basic infrastructure is often damaged.
“Australia continues to support you because this is vital infrastructure that connects community, enables economic growth to continue and ensures that communities remain in touch with each other during emergency.”
About the bailey bridges, Ms. Bishop said they are bridges used in times of emergency and are very easy to put up.
“They don’t need any specialist tools and they can be put over effective flooded areas so people can immediately access much needed services,” she said.
“This kind of response would be vital and working with L.T.A. (Land and Transport Authority) for the location of five bailey bridges.”
She added that perhaps the five bailey bridges should be named after her and all three other women members of her delegation.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa has already suggested two locations in Savai’i where bailey bridges are very much needed.
He did not give any names of the areas in Savai’i he was talking about.
Before signing the agreement, Tuilaepa said that Samoa continues to be confronted by catastrophes resulting in destruction of bridges.
He said there two villages in Savai’i which are often affected by flooding.
“I could see that those two areas will possibly be considered for the usage of these bridges and avoid further catastrophe in the future.”
In visiting the Leone construction site, Associate Minister of the Ministry of the Prime Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga said the bridges are critical points of connection.
“Without them we lose connectivity to around the country, to businesses communities, airport and wharf,” said Peseta.
“Samoa feels confident by being prepared with these bailey bridges in future disasters and Samoa can easily connect…our gratitude to the financial assistance of $1.4million provided by government of Australia.”
Ms. Bishop also announced a A$1million (T1.8m) funding for the Samoa Family Health Association and also handed over machinery for producing prosthetics and orthotics to the Samoa National Health Services.
A reception was held last night at the Australian High Commissioner’s residence, Sue Langford, in Vailima for Ms. Bishop and her delegation.