Budget, aid, cost of handouts

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

And so the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti’s 2018/19 Budget tabled in Parliament two weeks ago was passed last night.

Guided by the theme “The Right Path,” the passing of the budget will no doubt come as music to the ears of Government bodies and businesses whom the Government owes money to. 

What it means is that with their allocations from the budget, the Ministries now can get on with the business of doing their work where funding is needed.

With total Revenues estimated at $849.48million, a deficit of $85.44million is forecasted. Still, Minister Sili remains positive about the country’s future prospects.

 “There is positive optimism in the economy over the medium term,” he said. 

“It means businesses will enjoy an environment that creates opportunities for them to grow and to help create jobs for our people. It also means there will be fiscal space for government to provide the services required by our people.

 “But we should never lose sight of the fact that Samoa faces a number of risks.

“That underscores the need for the government to continue to put in place the policy framework that will ensure macroeconomic stability and fiscally responsible.”

Sili pointed out that the future outlook is positive and encouraging for the economy.

“At the policy level government will continue to implement strategies that will generate opportunities for our people so they can enjoy a happy and secured future. At the same time appropriate fiscal and monetary policies will continue, to underpin a stable macroeconomic framework,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the positive outlook, we need to be vigilant at all times to minimize Samoa’s exposure to a number of risks. We are highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters, which can cause significant damage and therefore put pressure on government debt. As well, the partial withdrawal of C.B.R.’s by global and regional banks, could disrupt the inflow of remittances to Samoa.

“We therefore need to continue to be prudent in the way we manage the economy and our future going forward. The first responsibility of the Government is to be fiscally responsible. That is, spending within our means. We cannot build a stronger and sustainable future for Samoa by spending money we do not have.”

Amen to that. We couldn’t agree more with Minister Sili.

The fact is that for Samoa, without aid, remittances and handouts, this country will be in huge trouble. That much we know. We do not generate enough revenues to sustain ourselves. It is why the Government has to go out and beg for handouts to shore up their finances.

But such hand outs and aid do not come for free. There is a cost for everything.  

In Samoa today, the idea that foreign-owned businesses are popping up here and there cannot be ignored. The worst part is that they are driving our very own people out of business.

We warned some time ago that soon all that our people can do is sell pork buns on the side of the road when foreigners run all the retail businesses in this country. 

This is exactly what is happening today.

Interestingly enough, just before the budget was passed last night, Prime Minister Tuilaepa spoke about Samoa’s journey from being an extremely poor country. In his words, he said we were among the poorest of the poorest.

Today, he said Samoa has come a long way.

We agree to an extent. We have certainly come a long way as a nation if you look at the developments, the buildings and technology.

But what about our people? Are they better off today? Are they happier today than those days? When you see young kids hawking goods on the streets and our local businesses reduced to selling BBQ on the roadside, did anybody see this coming? And now that it is happening, does anybody have a solution?

These are challenging times. They are fragile and sensitive times. But it goes back to what we’ve been saying that the government must invest money to encourage people to develop farming and agriculture. 

With all that fertile soil in Samoa, imagine if there were millions of tala available to local farmers so they can fund different projects to utilise their land. 

The Government should then invest in setting up factories where our wildly grown breadfruits, mangoes, papayas, lemon and so forth are canned and exported. That way employment is created, people have money in their pockets and the economy is stimulated. Most importantly, there is a solid base for exports earning us much-needed revenues.

The worry for Samoa is that in the absence of a solid export base, the government will continue to depend on these foreigners and investors to create employment.

Which is okay but it comes with a hefty price tag. These foreigners will bring their conditions and they will impose their will because at the end of the day, beggars can’t be choosers. And when people become more and more desperate, they will have no choice but to follow in order to survive. What do you think?

Have an enjoyable Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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