S.L.C.’s $4.4 million yesterday, MedCen’s $2.5 million today

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Just last week, we talked about our government-owned Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.) looking for someone with $4.4 million to buy its headquarters at Tuana’imato, and as far as we were aware then, no buyer had fronted up.

All we’ve been told is that the corporation’s three-story, concrete headquarters at Tuana’imato had been abandoned in 2014, and the government was looking for someone to rent it and since no one was interested, it has remained vacant all that time. 

Reports then said the organization, Hope for Cancer, had shown interest in the property and yet the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell, later revealed that no commitment by them had been made.

Which was why in this column on 8 July 2017, we asked the question: “Why is S.L.C.’s $4.4 m complex still vacant?

And now that we know why, it is interesting to see that S.L.C. is not alone; in fact, it is just as bankrupt if not more so than this other government-owned, and publicly-funded corporation known as MedCen Hospital, that is located up Vailima way.

Now wait just a second. 

Do we hear right that the man who was closely involved with the decision to build S.L.C.’s $4.4  million headquarters which has since been declared bankrupt, is also now closely involved with the demise of MedCen Hospital, which has also now been declared bankrupt?

According to reports, Medcen Hospital has an outstanding loan of $2.5 million that needs to be cleared, so that the land on which it’s located could be utilized for another government development project.

The problem though is no one has shown any interest in the land in question at Vailima, just as no one has shown any interest on the land that bankrupt S.L.C. is occupying at Tuana’imato.

And that is apparently giving the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, much headache theses days.

Indeed, he’s apparently very much concerned of the need to utilize government land where Medcen Hospital is located for another development project, so that the outstanding loan of $2.5million should be cleared up.

What that other development project is though, has not been spelt out.

Still, what seems to be the problem though is that much cleaning up has to be done within the government’s finance and expenditure department, as the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, has pointed out.

That way he’s recommended “that repayments can be made as well as thoroughly assess approving loans to risky debtors which have high chances of being written off.” 

He also noted that “the interest rates imposed on loans are dependent upon the interest rates where the funds are provided.” 

Indeed, he advised that “interest rates offered to the public range from 11% to 16% for different development and reasons.” 

And that “only when the D.B.S. received lower interest rates and loans from the National Bank of Samoa, that the D.B.S. was then able to offer interest rates of 8% to its clients. 

“This 8% interest remains right throughout the term of the loan.” 

He also explained: “The Corporation should also consider the time frame the clients can afford to make repayments, to ensure that both the client and the Bank are safe.”

As for the building where MedCen Hospital was housed, the Minister of Finance pointed out the Board and D.B.S. should give this project top priority by ensuring the loan is cleared. 

He said: “There are announcements and advertisements for interested individuals and companies to buy or lease the land to earn money so that the loan can be paid.” 

He also reminded that in May 2017, the Development Bank of Samoa re-advertised the property for sale or as lease-to-own. 

At the time, the “MedCen Building was ideal for business development, as it was located on Government-leased land at Vailima opposite the U.S. Embassy. 

“It was available for sale or lease-to-own over a period of 20 years for $2.1 million O.N.O.” 

Before the launch, the Pacific Islands Investment Facility (P.I.I.F.), promised that the hospital would “upgrade standards, relieve pressures on the public system, incorporate special programmes to bring benefits to the wider community, save foreign exchange, provide improved health care, and it would increase tourism and foreign investment.”

And then in 1988, MedCen Hospital, was officially opened. 

It did with the backing of 22 Samoan and American Samoan shareholders, and was headed by Le Mamea Dr. Emosi Puni, and Leo’o Dr John Adams. 

And then some years ago, the hospital ran into financial problems, and the dream started to wilt away. 

The Development Bank, the hospital’s biggest creditor who’d invested $2 million in it, moved in and took over the assets and equipment.

At the time, those assets were of international standards, and in 2003 it was granted international certification.

In its heyday, MedCen Hospital was staffed by resident doctors, consultants, nurses, visiting specialists, and was supported by a well-equipped laboratory with x-rays, and ultrasound facilities. 

And then the bubble burst and MedCen Hospital was no more.

All of a sudden it’d become a liability and along the way, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, the man with the golden touch appeared, so where is he today?

And now the question is: Has MedCen Hospital’s outstanding debt of $2.5 million been paid up, or is that another of those well-guarded secrets the rest are not supposed to know about?

© Samoa Observer 2016

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