A vocal businesses woman, Moe Lei Sam, is worried about the future of Samoans.
With the influx of foreign-owned businesses springing up all across the country especially in the retail sector, Ms. Lei Sam said the number of businesses run by locals, is dwindling at an alarming rate.
A Samoan woman of Chinese descent, Ms. Lei Sam is particularly concerned about the influx of Asian run shops, forcing Samoans out of business.
“I believe the Prime Minister thinks that we are racist every time we raise this issue,” she said. “I’m Chinese as well. I’m half Chinese. We started off really poor, not like the new Chinese, they just came in and brought all this big business.”
While many new businesses have been established, she had not witnessed any employment opportunities arising for locals as a result.
“They bring their own people, their own workers.”
Ms. Lei Sam is especially concerned about the number of small shops that have shut down in Samoa.
She attributed this to the rapid expansion of unmatchable competition from Asian-owned businesses. The loss of small businesses, according to Ms. Lei Sam, is particularly apparent on special occasions such as Christmas and New Year.
After receiving low customer numbers last Mother’s Day, she discovered with dismay that there was new competition in the area.
“We didn’t know there was another Chinese shop. They were selling stuff for one tala,” she said.
Ms. Lei Sam blames the government. She said the government is encouraging foreign investment in the name of competition and development but Samoans simply do not have the monetary resources to compete.
“If they [Chinese Business owners] get the stuff from oversees, sure enough they will pay the Customs right, the freight, the wharf. And how are we going to pay that?”
Already she has seen numerous small shops shut their doors permanently but the juxtaposition of one of these bordering a huge new shop that she saw driving to the airport at New Year, has stuck in her mind.
Ms. Lei Sam’s concerns about the future, centres on poverty worsening as more people are consequentially put out of business.
Poverty in Samoa is an issue that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has previous denied to exist.
However, Ms. Lei Sam disagrees.
“There are kids selling stuff on the streets,” she pointed out. “Everyday. One little boy I had to wake up because he fell asleep in front of my shop. I cried because he was walking around on a hot day like this and couldn’t even sell anything so he fell asleep out the front. Doesn’t that break your heart?”
“The Prime Minister says there is no poverty. No poverty in Samoa. Come on! It is right at your feet.”
Although her anxiety has risen with the most recent wave of Chinese immigrants, Ms Lei Sam, felt compelled to clarify her concerns are based on issues, not prejudices.
Tensions became apparent recently when a group of Chinese men entered Ms. Lei Sam’s shop.
One of them approached Ms. Lei Sam and asked if it was a Chinese shop, which received a quick “no”.
The man then reportedly replied, “No gooda, no gooda. Chinese have plenty money.”
Ms. Lei Sam was infuriated by the encounter and wondered if it reflected broader attitudes among the ‘new Chinese” in Samoa.
“I was so angry. Is this the way the Chinese are looking at us? No gooda no gooda Samoan people because Chinese have plenty money?”
The issues she has raised all contribute to her concerns for the futures and Ms. Moe Lei Sam invites any others who share these concerns to contact her.