Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has defended the government’s decision to change the age limit of vehicles imported to Samoa from twelve to eight years.
He vehemently downplayed claims linking the rationale behind their latest decision to one of the strongest points of objection raised by opponents of the controversial road switch several years ago.
The government was clearly warned about Samoa becoming a dumping ground for cheap vehicles.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Tuilaepa said times are changing and there is a need to bring in newer vehicles.
“It doesn’t mean that we import cars and continue on with (importing) rubbish,” he said.
“In this life we move forward. When you start bringing in cars, the next thing you want is a brand new car.”
Tuilaepa reminded that even before road switch was implemented, many Samoans had already started importing brand new cars.
“But that’s the nature of these things,” he said.
“The old man knows that an old car doesn’t last long so he writes to his son to tell him to stop fooling him (with an old car) and to bring someone new.”
In 2009 when the government introduced the road switch, one of the reasons used to sell the idea at the time was to allow the importation of cheaper cars from New Zealand and Australia to make transportation easier.
Fast-forward to now, the government is changing its mind. Instead of 2004, imported vehicles will now have had to be manufactured in 2009 to be allowed to enter the country. The change becomes effective in January 2017.
Although many people are concerned, it is the suddenness of the decision that has hit some businesses hard.
Take for example the Manager of Alnima Motors, Shahjahan Fazor, who told the Samoa Observer they were only made aware about the change recently.
He said the short notice means their bulk order scheduled to arrive early next year, might have to be returned. And this will cost them dearly.
“This is the busiest time of the year and we have already processed our orders to arrive next year,” said Mr. Fazor.
“The short notice really does affect our business because we made our orders three months prior because of the long process. We have already processed about 40 cars from year 2004 – 2005 that will get in next year.”
Asked about concerns from Alnima Motors about vehicles they had already pre-ordered and are on their way here, Tuilaepa said he needs proof that this was the case.
“We are considering that until the orders come in,” he explained.
“But first I need proof. Who knows they might bring in the proof and we find there weren’t any cars that were ordered from that time.”