China’s dominance, local businesses and the future

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It’s arguably the most talked about topic of the day. 

China’s influence whether it’s aid, diplomacy or just the influx of its people and businesses into small countries, the issue is as universal as the internet. It is what the world is talking about.

Here on the remote shores of our small island country, we are not immune for the simple reason that without China, our Government would be struggling with a number of development programmes they are planning.  Which is the undisputed truth. 

It is why our Government leaders will forever defend their presence in these parts of the world. It is safe to say it is the lifeblood that is sustaining developments at this point in time. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work that out.

But nothing comes for free, does it? It goes without saying that in this world, contrary to what the politicians will have you believe, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Folks all that aid and so-called goodwill comes at a price. A hefty one too. 

And given the smallness of our country, any movement for whatever reason, is hard not to notice. Which is why the growing number of Asian businesses, mostly Chinese businesses, popping everywhere continues to raise eyebrows. It is happening all over Samoa. 

Vaitele for instance is increasingly becoming Chinatown with shops, wholesales, restaurants and much, much more. Some of them are even beginning to open up motels on street corners and anywhere they can squeeze a business. It’s astonishing.

But we saw it coming, didn’t we? Indeed, the shift in Chinese businesses taking over from local businesses didn’t just happen overnight. We’ve watched the business landscape change during the past years. And it’s not going to stop. That’s a fact.

The question is; where do we draw the line? When do we say enough is enough? Where do our people stand in all this? What is the future for them? 

These are uncomfortable questions and some might sneer at us for asking them. That’s fine. But they are questions we need to ask.   This is why we are here. We exist to ask questions many people are afraid to ask.  

Now here is another factor we need to consider. Apart from the fact that they are growing in such huge numbers, we know the Asians are naturally gifted with business skills and acumen. It is something they are born with. 

And they have the money and resources our people simply cannot compete with.

Take for example those shops popping up all over the place. Under previous ownership, we saw that the shelves were empty and that hardly anyone entered those stores.

Now having being taken over by the Chinese, we suddenly see that business is booming and that there is life to these buildings. This just makes things even harder. 

Whether we like it or not, they are here to stay.  What do we do? Do we embrace the status quo or do we resist change?

Sometime ago, Cabinet Minister Lautafi Fio Purcell was asked about the issue.

“I feel for those (local business) people because it’s quite obvious,” Lautafi told the Sunday Samoan. “It doesn’t take long for a Chinese shop to come in then (local) business goes out.” 

Lautafi described Asian retailers as “ruthless in business.” 

“They are in your face suggesting things you should buy,” he said. “They are business orientated people. They make sure you will not go out of the shop without buying something and its part of their business ethics that draws people to their shops. 

“That is the philosophy that has not clicked on our people. As opposed to our shops you go inside and they look at you as if they don’t want you there.”

The Minister is correct in that regard. We’ve always known that one of the biggest problems in Samoa is that everyone thinks they are a king/queen. Perhaps it’s a case of having too many chiefs and no Indians

Still, think about the future of Samoa if what’s happening today is an indication of what’s to come?  When our businesses have been bought out and land becomes accesible to any foreigner with monies, what is there for us? Where do all these poor Samoans stand?

Is money really the root of all evil? Or is it corruption and greed that is associated with money? 

Have a safe Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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