A shop owner, Nu’uausala Sionaia, is worried about the future. The man who owns and manages a shop at Faleasiu believes there is coming a time when people like him will be forced to sell crops on the side of the road while foreigners run the retail industry in Samoa.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Nu’uausala said the influx of foreigners – mainly Asians who are taking over local stores – worry him.
“I am more disappointed about the attitude of the government,” he said.
“They are the ones who opened the door to these foreigners to run businesses here. In the beginning, it was okay when these Asian business people only set up their businesses in town.
“But I’ve decided to speak up because they are starting to move out to the villages, taking over the small shops and the small businesses that people like us run. Soon we will be out of business.”
Nu’uausala said he wants to voice his concerns because he is sure he is not the only local businessperson affected.
“I know the Prime Minister says that we are racist every time someone raises this issue. But I can’t stay here and keep my mouth shut when we are sinking.
“This is the truth. In my area, I have seen many locally run shops close as soon as the Chinese businesses start opening up. They just cannot compete.”
As an example, Nu’uausala pointed to the village of Saleimoa at Fatitu where an Asian run shop recently opened.
“Once that was open, all the other local shops started closing down. Why? Because the Chinese shop took all the customers causing these small shops to close.
“We have two local shops at Faleasiu that are also closed and we heard that there’s a Chinese shop that is about to open there.”
Nu’uausala said he is concerned about the future of Samoa.
“This is not good for us local people because if this continues then where are we going to go? How are we going to survive, feed our families and provide for the many faalavelaves we have?”
Nu’uausala said the issue is one the government should take very seriously.
“There has to be proper laws to guide what these new businesses can and cannot do. I think it would be good if they only do business around town because this is where most people live. They can still make a lot of money there but give us the chance to make some money in our own villages.”
Nu’uausala added that he is worried about his children.
“I look at my children and my heart cries out because if this continues then my children, my children’s children and the future generations of Samoa will live in poverty because all these foreigners are taking everything.
“This is what the government should really look at because if they keep allowing the Asians to set up their businesses everywhere else in Samoa, then in the future we will be eating grass while they live happily on our land and run everything that we have been working so hard for.”
Nu’uausala also rubbished claims that these businesses provide employment.
“They bring their own people, their own workers,” he said. “Many of them come out at night.”
Nu’uausala Sionaia blames the government. He 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.
“I’ll be very interested in the books of these companies whether they’re paying the correct amount at customs and all the other costs.”
The disappointed shop owner’s concerns about the future centres on poverty.
Poverty in Samoa is an issue that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has previous denied to exist.
But Nu’uausala disagrees.
“There are kids selling stuff on the streets because they have nowhere else to go,” he pointed out. “The Prime Minister says there is no poverty. No poverty in Samoa. Come on! It is right at your feet.”
Although his anxiety has risen with the most recent wave of Asian immigrants, Nu’uausala said he is merely raising an issue many people like him are talking about.
“I urge our people to speak up and express their concerns. This is our country, we need to look after it.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is overseas and could not be contacted for a comment.