It works like this.
If you are given a job and you do it exceptionally well, more responsibilities will be added unto you. Ask Lautafi Fio Purcell and that’s precisely what has happened to him. The Member of Parliament for Satupa’itea who returned unopposed was the Minister of Public Enterprises during the last Parliamentary Term.
On Friday, he was given more responsibilities. On top of his old portfolio, he was also handed the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour as well as Tourism and the Samoa Land Corporation.
It’s a lot of portfolios – albeit major ones - for one man but Lautafi is used to being thrown in the “deep water” and expected to swim.
“I thought the last time was big but this one is even bigger,” he said. “Having said that, I’m humbled and honoured. I feel happy to be able to serve again in these capacities. I’m happy for my family, my constituency and I also thank God.”
While Lautafi admits he has a lot of work to get done, he is optimistic.
“If I have good Chief Executive Officers my job will be easier and I know I have good C.E.Os.”
Lautafi’s journey started two years ago when he was promoted as the Minister of Public Enterprises. On the 25th April 2014, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi made an interesting decision when he appointed Lautafi as his new Minister.
The appointment followed the resignation of former Minister of Finance, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga.
At the age of 62, Lautafi couldn’t have been any happier with the appointment coming a day before his 60th birthday at the time.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I never expected it and at the time I was shocked. In my mind if I get picked I can do this job.”
From then on Lautafi was tasked with a challenging assignment of putting together a Ministry that never existed. The Ministry of Public Enterprises is responsible for all the state owned enterprises that is required by law to improve their profitability and provide dividends to the government.
A year after it was established and things “were on the roll” the challenges were starting to bare fruits. Those rewards were seen with the Electric Power Corporation providing a dividend of a $1million for the first time to government last year. In the same year the Samoa Land Corporation also paid out a dividend of $1million.
During a previous interview with Lautafi, he said it was rewarding to see things fall in to place.
He also made reference to S.O.Es being pressured to meet deadlines in reporting to Parliament on time, a problem faced by many S.O.Es twenty years ago. With the workload on Lautafi, a sacrifice he has to make is giving up his time with his children and wife, Gisa Lematua Fuatai Purcell who is stationed in Europe.
But the Minister has no regrets.
“It’s rewarding in other ways to help in the decision making of Samoa,” he said. “That is the most satisfying feeling, to be involved in the process to build the future of Samoa in (next) 100 years.
“No monetary reward is ever enough to be part of the machinery that builds a nation.”
Lautafi’s first job was a credit controller for the old Nelson Le Tolo Plantation where his father, the late Martin Purcell of Malaela was the Manager.
He attended Chanel College before he left for New Zealand to continue his studies at St. Pauls, Wellington.
The retired father lived in New Zealand for 25 years working for the Department of Corrections. He returned to Samoa and was called to assist with the separation of the Police and Prisons where he did consultancy work in 2011. His wife Gisa heads a Division at the Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union, in Geneva.