Mysterious moves of government

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Marj Moore

News that the costly, white elephant that was the Samoa Land Corporation’s headquarters at Tuanaimato has at last found a tenant, is good news isn’t it?

The government certainly thinks so anyway.

Particularly after various prospective buyers and would-be tenants did their own due diligence on the real value of the property and building and found it was nowhere near worth the ridiculous sum that the government was asking.

Nobody with a brain was surprised about that.

After all it was common knowledge even before various parliamentary reports provided confirmation that S.L.C. was ‘party central’ for slack purchasing practices, dubious middlemen suppliers, overspending by the then minister Faumuina Liuga, non-collection of revenue, sale of land to S.L.C .employees at 60% of the market price, unsatisfactory quote systems, unsuccessful projects and other dodgy deals going down.

As for the escalator in this doomed building, as a symbol of the whole organisation, it never actually went up.

Now however, the government in its wisdom has offered to lease the building and property to an organisation from Mexico called ‘Hope 4 Cancer’.

Already members of parliament are twittering on about ‘medical tourism’.

According to an online report, “The Hope4Cancer Institute (in Mexico), offers ocean views, wireless Internet and “a private driver for shopping and sightseeing outings (because there are no side effects to our treatments...)” The glitzy marketing and offers for last-chance miracles often carry US$25,000 price tags that insurers won’t cover. But that hasn’t stemmed visitors, from the anonymous to the famous, from coming. Actor Steve McQueen was treated for cancer in a Tijuana clinic with laetrile, a treatment made from apricot pits. McQueen died a few months after his treatment. Civil rights champion Coretta Scott King also sought alternative remedies to her ovarian cancer but died in Tijuana in 2006.”

And while Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Selafi Purcell has assured everyone who will listen that, “Every detail of the lease will be in the agreement”, we would like to be similarly assured that government has done its due diligence checks on this organisation.

To this question, the minister did a sidestep by answering that “the contact person for the mission is the office of the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.” 

So does this mean he does not know if the organisation has been investigated or is he saying he doesn’t want to answer that question?

Either way, one would think that from past experiences of foreigners from all over the world who jet in with grandiose schemes and just as quickly fly out, it would be prudent to have all the facts before going to the trouble of sorting out a lease. 

However in looking at government decisions it is wise to remember that they often move in mysterious ways and deliver mixed messages.

For example government is so concerned for our health and well being, large amounts of our taxpayers’ money is spent in advertisements, campaigns and other publicity urging us to stop smoking or not to start.

But alongside all of that, in an apparent chase for yet more revenue and perhaps pressure from our donor friends, it approves the setting up of a second cigarette factory.

It then excuses that decision by saying “The choice of smoking is up to the person. Even if we don’t have a tobacco company here, people will buy cigarette from overseas.”

Really?

So why bother with all the non-smoking publicity then if it is the people’s choice?

The minister goes on to say that the company plans to use locally-grown tobacco, known as tapa’a plant, to make the product. 

“Locals who harvest the plant could sell it to the company.

“That is what we want to encourage. 

“We want our local materials to be utilised instead of setting up an office here and bringing in things from elsewhere.”

Missing from his comments are any assurances that the local product will not cause cancer and other related diseases.

Also strangely quiet on the entire matter is the Ministry of Health.

Tell us what you think.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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