Govt. must learn from these failed projects

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

And so once again the issue of millions of tala being wasted while so many people in this country continue to wallow in petty poverty and hardship has returned to the fore.

It did with the story titled “Govt. admits$5.7m failure” on the front page of your newspaper last Sunday. It was sad but inevitable. You see it was only a matter of time before what we feared would eventually happen.

And so it comes as no surprise at all that the government is looking for someone to develop the place in a last desperate attempt to recover the millions spent on it.

At least Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Selafi Purcell, was quite up front about it.

 “We all know (the market) is not strategically placed for our people who like to jump out of the car and get back in without having to walk the distance,” he said.

“It’s not viable and I’m sure the businesses (tendered) will come up with much better use of space and return for government leasing land.”

There is more. Lautafi added that he is also looking at a similar situation for the market at Salelologa. While he admits that the situation at Salelologa is not as bad as Vaitele, it’s become quite obvious the government is in a bind in terms of finding ways to use these multi-million-tala failed investments.

But these are the stories of our time. They are tales of such reckless spending and negligence on the part of people who dreamt up these white elephants. 

The fact is the Vaitele market is just one example of how millions of public monies have been wasted by the government on these so-called investments that have failed. It is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Of millions wasted on infrastructure, not far from the Vaitele market is another multi-million-tala government building in the form of the S.N.P.F Complex that remains largely empty. 

Up at the Tuana’imato Sports Complex, a number of facilities costing millions built for the South Pacific Games have amounted to nothing less than a pile of waste. Who knows what would have happened to the other infrastructures there if it wasn’t for the need to renovate them for the S.I.D.S conference as well as the recent Commonwealth Youth Games? 

And how can we forget about another $4.2million tala empty building at Tuana’imato in the form of the former S.L.C headquarters that will soon be home to a largely unknown entity promising much in terms of cancer treatment? 

But these are not all. 

Think about the failed Satitoa Wharf. What about the wharf and airport at Asau in Savai’i? What about the Maota Airport at Salelologa? The common factor in all these developments is that they are highly underutilized. In some cases, some of these facilities are simply a waste of time and money.

To be fair to the government, the facilities were built with good intentions. 

And to a certain extent there was a need for them. Take for instance the Vaitele market. Back in 2011 when the facility was opened, the then Minister of Finance, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, had a dream. In cutting the ribbon, he said: “The colour of the ribbon – gold – best describes this new market. This will be a goldmine for this country.” 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi certainly shared the dream.

Sadly, the dream has turned into a nightmare. 

Which reminds us about what we have been saying all along about these facilities.

Ladies and gentlemen, the difference between good intentions and the need to invest public monies wisely is quite often a costly exercise. 

The reality is that these bad decisions hurt innocent members of the public who had little to do with the decision making in the first place. The millions wasted on these investments is often reflected through high unemployment, the expensive cost of living, high crime rate, poverty, hardship and our ballooning foreign debt threatening to enslave us all.

From an economic standpoint, the government seem to have been operating on the notion that once the infrastructure is in place; it will itself create the demand that’s needed to sustain it. 

Obviously that hasn’t worked and the multi-million-tala failures we have referred to in this piece are classic examples. 

The lesson here is simple. If anything, we need to create the demand first before we do anything else. That requires proper analysis, planning and prudent budgeting to ensure our hard-earned taxpayers money and much-needed aid monies are not wasted. 

Equally important is the need to eliminate corruption, abuse of power and greed, which played a huge role during the construction of these projects. 

No wonder they have failed. Let’s not kid ourselves here, if something is corrupt from the start, the end will be miserable. That’s why public servants must insist on transparency and accountability – something that has been clearly lacking in a number of these failed projects.

And here’s another reminder. It’s one thing to have a vision but it’s quite another to pursue foolish dreams that will only hurt the poorest of the poor.

What do you think? 

Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a fabulous Friday Samoa, God bless!

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