The frustrations expressed by the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry over the Government’s latest cost of living stunt called the Customs and Tariff Bill should be taken very seriously.
As if this law was not already unpopular with members of the public, the sentiments by the business community echoed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber, Lemauga Hobart Va’ai, is absolute proof of another truth we’ve known for a long time now.
That the Government, through the Ministry of Revenue, has once more used it’s one party state advantage in Parliament to muscle through another piece of legislation that will only hurt everyone – including some of the poorest people in this country.
Ironically, when the bill was discussed and passed into law, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegoi said the new tax is to help promote a healthy Samoa. He said they wanted to make imported chicken expensive so people can return to the old way of living.
This column said at the time that this explanation was a load of rubbish. We still maintain that it is absolute garbage.
Folks, the health ticket was only being used as a front by a Government desperate for monies to plug a number of holes created by wasted spending, their luxurious lifestyles and that sickness called corruption that they cannot seem to be able to heal.
The people of this country are not stupid. They can see this from a mile out.
Why on earth would a government make chicken, the one piece of imported meat that is affordable for the majority of families, more expensive if they were not desperate?
Think of families living below the poverty line and middle income earners who can barely get by on a daily basis. Think of the families of those street vendors all over Samoa. There are kids sleeping on street corners in a bid to find money so their families can survive. What are they going to do?
“I disagree with the Government on increasing the tax on chicken given the cost of living that we have today in Samoa,” said Eseta Faasao of Falelauniu.
“Increasing the tax for health reasons, I don’t think that’s even right. I only hope the Government could have considered that chicken today in Samoa is much cheaper than of tinned fish.
Waldell Brown of Leauva’a-uta said the increase is ridiculous.
“My family eats chicken almost every day because that’s the only meat we can afford. It’s an excuse when they said the extra tax on chicken is for health reasons.
“I have been eating chicken when I was a kid, I am 58 years old now and I am still strong and well. If they are going to increase the tax on chicken, they might as well decrease the price on the tinned fish or even increase the minimum wage rate.”
Eseta and Waldell have summed up well what most people are thinking today.
Now you’d think that the Government would first consult the business community, given the impact such a law would have on them. Well apparently not.
According to Lemauga, the whole process “lacks transparency.”
“The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry is disappointed that once again, despite a standing agreement with the Government to have a ‘no surprises’ approach to any proposed changes to the policies and laws that impact on the private sector and consumers, import duties on imported frozen chicken are being imposed with little or no timely consultation,” Lemauga said.
“Such an approach lacks transparency and fosters uncertainty which could regrettably result in job losses as well as higher end-user food costs.
“Candid and timely dialogue would enable the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry to provide fully informed impact assessments of any proposed changes as well as possible appropriate alternate solutions for addressing the issues underlying any proposed changes.”
Lemauga says should proposed changes ultimately go through, the private sector would require time to take the measures necessary to respond to such significant changes.
“The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry desires a return to a “no surprises” approach to avoid potential negative impacts on employees through job losses, consumers through higher end-user prices and businesses through a presumably unintended quashing of the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Now let’s hope the Ministry of Revenue and the relevant authorities in the Government are listening. And if they are, do they care? Stay tuned!
Have a wonderful week Samoa, God bless!