It’s a hard world to make a living

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Le Ulupoao Ata Maiai

The reading public has had the benefit and choice to reflect on a series of well- thought- out editorials in the Samoa Observer newspaper on a number of economic and social issues in recent weeks. 

In an editorial, Mataafa Ken Lesa asked the question -” when will the government wake up and make the connection between poverty, unemployment, hardship, and many of these social problems?” 

There are many of us who would ask the same question. 

The most probable defence from the HRPP government is that its policies and actioned-programmes in the last 28 years have provided the answers to the forgoing question. On balance, this is a question that requires us to look to the past events and personalities to make sense- and food for thought- of/on the present situation: in the collective interest of finding solutions.

The problems are the subject of conversations in the villages and in urban area.The andecdote points to many people living from hand to mouth in this country; the facts reported in the media showed many disquieting cases of organised crime in government, hooliganism committed by the students, a culture of cover ups, homeless, Samoans sleeping in public places including the reclaimed  area  behind the government buildings; a culture of drug epidemic contaminating the civilised, Samoan and Christian  traditions/values: judging by the cases before the courts; suicide, murder, and carnal crimes. These are the dramatic happenings in the rural and urban settings in the country. A selective profile of the past gets the ball rolling.

The physical and spiritual existence of most Samoans are influenced by the trappings of village economy as opposed to the urban dwellers in the Apia-urban  economy. Subsistence living (farming and fishing) and the monetary activities

(income/ employment in the private and public sectors, self-employment, remittances) explain the contemporary way of life in the samoan  village economy. The traditional culture and Christanity are the foundation of  contemporary Samoa. Some forty years ago, the published works of Teo Dr. Ian Fairbairn and Dr Brian Lockwood on the Samoan village economy were  popular readings and references in the academic circle; and for the purpose of formulating  project activities managed by the elected and the appointed officials in Samoa. The times of Fairbairn and Lockwood were preceded by the advent of the Commercial Plantation Industry that began 120 years earlier under American, British and German settlement in Samoa.

The Commercial Plantation Industry, a product of the village economy became   the engine of social-economic development/growth in the country The London Mission Society and the German Co-D.H.P.G. founded the Commercial Plantation Industry in Samoa. Employment opportunities in the Commercial Plantation Industry were taken by the Samoan and the indentured labour. By the early 1900’s, there was a rather bold move known as” O le Oloa” championed by Mataafa Iosefo,  Tupua Tamasese Lealofi, Tuimalealiifano  and well supported by Aiga Tumua ma Pule. My great-father Magele Tagaileono Peni, Afamasaga Maua to name a few was involved in this innovative move. “ O le Oloa” was premised on the  nationalist sentiments to organise the harvest of copra under a Samoan brand, sell the raw materials to the merchants and buy food for the villages.” O le Oloa” was a flash in the  pan for the obvious reason our ancestors were not schooled in this type of human activity but it was a good sign of things to come.

 It was another Samoan, Taisi Nelsoni who raised the bar in social, economic and business developments for the indigenous community. He was experienced and schooled in the business world having attended Marist Brothers School at Mulivai and worked at the largest German company in Samoa. Taisi Nelesoni was the brand for O. F. Nelson and Co. Ltd which was the first to build a net work of trading posts throughout Samoa ; and a shipping fleet for inter-island transport. A unique feature of Taisi’s business was its quasi- contract and banking services which provided cash and goods up-front to the  farmers in their villages to be paid back during harvests.Other locals follow the  business trend set by Taisi: Carruthers, Coxons, Retzlaff; Bartley in the company of W.E.S.T.E.C., the largest commercial plantation  operation; Burns Philip and Morris Hedstrom.The Western  Samoa Planters Association had Mataafa Fiame Mulinuu II, Vaafusuga Poutoa and others in the helm; and Co-operative Societies, became very popular in the villages. A significant feature of that development is the participation of women in commercial agriculture.

 The Mau Independence movement based at Vaimoso village in 1926-48 saw high profile events in politics  somewhat dominated the lives of the village people. The agricultural, business and economic developments took a prodigious turn of events at the introduction of self-rule in which the N.Z. Governor Guy Powles, and the Fautua-Tupua Tamasese Meaole and Malietoa Tanumafili 11- assisted by a Cabinet managed the government programs  that increased  many times  the output of  agricultural production. A pool of commercial planters rose to the occasion: on Upolu Aiono Ruti of Fasitoouta; Doug Atoa at Saleimoa; Sina Nelson Annadale and Herman Retzlaff at Tanumapua and Puipaa; Semisi Curry at Lefaga; the thriving/farming community at Aleisa and on Savaii island- Lesatele Rapi, Va’ai Kolone and their brother Ropati Va’ai; Tufuga Fatu; Aliimalemanu Tevita; Nelson Letolo plantation at Palauli. The churches owned commercial plantations as well. Taken together with hundreds of individual plots of 2-5acres acres of subsistence plantations, the Commercial Plantation Industry set the platform for income distribution in Samoa. That led to a short-lived period  of  prosperity prior to and after Independence.

Our exports of Trinitario( fine and flavour) cocoa peaked at 7000 tons in one year for instance. The governments of Prime Minister Fiame Mataafa Mulinuu 11 and Prime Minister Tupua Lealofi IV aggressively managed and implemented export driven projects of copra, cocoa and banana, and pine-apple in the villages. Incentives for farmers such as a bonus on harvest of crops and grant- money to buy the farmer’s vehicles were popular measures. These were publicly promoted to earn cash for the farmers; and as a govt policy statement, to create employment and eradicate poverty. In the case of Prime Minister Fiame Mataafa Faumuina 11 government, they were  facing a disinterested trading partner, N.Z. which was facing problems of its own. When his government’s request to the United States for finance( as budget support) was turned down, he publicly considered  asking the Soviet Union for help. It was the right thing to do after all as  he argued, the cost of manufacturing a fighter jet for the U.S. cost more than the financial aid sought by an allied  sovereign state. Western Samoa/Samoa had stood by the United States in time of troubles. He then led a trade mission to Tokyo, Japan to find buyers for the Samoan banana exports.

A protracted period of political instability ensued; and the unstable prices of commodities in the world market were some of the reasons for the diminishing contributions  of the Commercial Plantation Industry to Samoa. Then, three governments and three Prime Ministers-Tupuola Efi, Vaai Kolone and Tofilau Eti were the protagonists and they shared the public results of these times. The P.S.A. strike was linked to the H.R.P.P.

The untiring/ pioneering works of Mrs Aggie Grey had set in motion a trend that hugely impacted the Samoan visitor industry: in subsequent decades, many new hotels, beverage companies, air and sea transport companies, the food and garment industries have progressively filled the gaps in income from the Commercial Plantation Industry. Sports was a leisure; and sporting competitions were organised, managed and funded by prominent Samoan leaders. In a period of over 100 years, the game of Rugby Union has been developed from the early days of the Marist Brothers to the latter tenure of leading personalities: Mataafa Fiame Faumuina II, Tupua Tamasese Efi, assisted by Sua F. Thompsen, Leutele Simaile, Feesago Fepuleai,  Alec and Angus Macdonald and others. Mr Alan Grey supported by P.M. Tupuola Efi saved the game of rugby Union from extinction  when world rugby ignored Samoa. Today, the S.R.U. Chairman Tuilaepa Sailele presides over a popular/commercial sporting business: creating employment for Samoans.

 Sports have opened many windows of opportunities for Samoans. Mr Hans Kruse for instance captained the National Rugby team in its Internationals against Fiji, Tonga and the N.Z. Maoris. Mr Kruse  went on to head a very able team with Tuilaepa Sailele as his Deputy supported by local and international staff. They put in place many finely honed and  formatted processes for vetting and managing developmental progammes and activities in Western Samoa. At one stage, this department employed an economist with a towering reputation who had been the economic adviser to the President of the United States, Mr Jimmy Carter. Tupuola Efi was then the Prime Minister of Western Samoa. Poverty, unemployment, under-employment, social hardship and needs were among the many topics that were addressed in the successive  5 Year Economic Development Plans. Tupuola Efi’s government had continued the export-based activities from previous governments; and moreover, he introduced a robust Rural Development Program to improve the quality of life and create employment in the village economy.

Today, we take it for granted that the experienced services, the infrastructure, and the will to solve the posing problems of poverty and unemployment are efficiently managed by the government in this country. On many fronts, there are official supports in nation-building and capacity building programs. There are  indicators in Human  Resource Development (H.R.D.) reports by  Aid Donors for Samoa; household surveys and Census: these provide for informed decision making purposes. The AusAid, N.Z.Aid, World Bank, A.D.B., U.N.D.P. and the U.N. Specialised Organisations, E.U., Commonwealth have done exhaustive research;  made recommendations and provide millions of tala to fund  governmental projects in the social and economic  sectors.

This information is vitally important to the Ministers, C.E.O.’s and the staff of the government departments; the N.G.0.’s, the Council of Churches; the Pulenuu and Sui ole Nuu.

These organisations - from here and abroad- constitute a formidable task force in the frontline towards resolving social problems in this country.

 But what do these reports and surveys say? What does  economically active  mean in the  village economy? Is that employment? Are the roles of the  Pulenuu and Sui o le Nuu covered in these surveys? Do these studies and surveys warrant the resurrection of the Pulefaatoaga system? How could the “ Monotaga” system in the villages  be mobilised to create employment? What are the constraints to employment creation? What is the significance of the  per capita income in Samoa and how does it stack up  in solving poverty in Samoa? What are the official structures that could be mobilised/deployed  to eradicate poverty? Given the evidence, why not establish a Ministry for Employment and  Poverty Eradication?

 At a different level, surely the pivotal question; is the move by the Samoan from the subsistence living to the monetary culture- under the village economy- the cause of him being poor?

 The Donor community; the overseas financial institutions; China and the government are spending millions of dollars in support of the Samoan Public Services.There have been good results in the activities of governmental departments, the Health sector and Security/Police which deserve mentioning. These developments are supported by a quasi- social security system. The N.P.F. Old Peoples Pension Fund is a big help in the rural areas. The Churches have security support in place for its members. Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, U.S.A.: bi-lateral Aid-programs; and the multi-lateral aids  from  E.U., U.N.D.P. and Specialised Agencies; Commonwealth and the loan- finance from the World Bank, A.D.B., China: made many generous contributions that have improved the livelihood of the Samoan people. For 28 years, the H.R.R.P. government has been in power. Prime Minister Tofilau Eti and his successor, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele have presided over the destiny of  a nation whose political and physical landscape has been transformed: and its Human Resources Development radically and profoundly changed due to liberal exposures to the outside world.

This is why the government must put the human being/Samoan in the centre of everything it does. When we review the past events and the doings of personalities, the trend shows a people trying to survive in modern times. We were all together: those with cash spread around via  employment and help for” faalavelaves.” The Budget by Hon. Sili Epa Tuioti, Minister of Finance once again reminds us of the limitations and disadvantages that this small island state faces; the paucity of natural resources, isolation from international markets; dependency on foreign loans, technical and grant aids from bi-lateral and multi-lateral sources;  and the whole range of socio-economic challenges. The notion that the budget is a wise move: even an admission our socio economic developments have reached the point of diminishing returns is one of bold honesty. Many years ago, the world renown ed publication, “ Economist”, published a cartoon showing a boat drifting in the ocean; and on board were several economists rowing in different directions. Our small nation is in that  situation but it is the profound consequences of the Budgetary activities on our existence as human beings on this island that matters. Is social disorder/alienation in Samoan behaviour and personality the manifestation of these developments. Or is that in the equation of the social economic development of Samoa. Frantz Fanon in his book, “The Wretched of the Earth” took the readers to the depth of the alienation of the human being in the social economic milieu in colonial times. Frantz Fanon is still relevant  to societies today not in a violent way but in the messianic drive to find solutions to social ills.His is not on the same plane with the power and the outreach of the divine works of our Lord Jesus Christ on Earth but the psychiatric and psychological observations based on  his works have been the basis of many project-activities in the developing world. Then, there is the onotogical take on the subject which takes us to the basics. The asumption is that subsistence living- not  the “ Noble Savage” romantically protrayed by Paul Gaugin on canvas “ is poverty free. That condition precludes right from evil which the modern Samoan faces daily in the money economy: money is the root of all evil- and poverty. Albert Camus the Novelist portrayed the moral resilience of a people dying from the Plague.If God is the omnipotence why can’t He destroy evil, he asked? Camus and Fanon saw the symptoms of social ills in the alienated person: mentality and the behaviour like “keeping up with the Jones”, the rise of elitism in the educated; judicial disorder; narcissism, sadism, corruption, greed, social climbing, cronyism. Signs of social disorder in the social economic environment. The consequence of alienation in the experience of the societies that Frantz Fanon and Albert Camus wrote about, are violent: the poor unemployed angry youths in organised rebellion or in today’s language, home grown terrorism. That is why the presence and indeed the works of the Church to grow the complete youth/ Self in our society is the only “ life-boat” we have in stormy weather. And the churches are doing that. The Institution of Head of State personified by the current holder, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi is complementing that task with sound healthy Samoan in many public pronouncements. The nature of a Samoan existence in the modern world is the top priority: for instance, no Samoan should be marginalised by being poor, unemployed, homeless, raped, or die from suicide in our long Samoan journey on Earth.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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