The Shadow Minister of Finance for the Tautua Samoa Party, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, has defended a proposal by his group to double the retirement pension if they win the General Elections.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Afualo said the proposal, which is part of their General Elections battle plan, was not made simply for the sake of winning votes.
“We have said that there shall be opportunities for all,” he said. “That means we want everyone to benefit, social benefits for all.”
For the retirement pension, the Tautua Samoa has announced their intention to increase it from $125 to $250.
“We know it’s a lot of money but there is an economic rationale behind it,” said Afualo.
“We didn’t just raise this and we didn’t just lay down this vision for the sake of getting votes. We did it because from our view, the $125 tala pension is nothing.”
After 65 years of serving Samoa, Afualo said the amount of the retirement pension is “morally wrong”.
He explained that by increasing the amount, it will not only reward the senior citizens but it will also become an economic stimulant.
“This means that if one pensioner gets about $250tala because normally there’s about two in each family, they will get about $500tala.”
“All of that money will be circulated in the economy and it will eventually come back to the Treasury through the taxes and whatever means.”
“So not only will we try and give at least something to our Senior Citizens to make sure that they are being rewarded for the 65 years that they have been serving the H.R.P.P. but we are also looking at the positive side.”
Afualo rejected claims that the plan is a “waste of money”.
“This will stimulate the growth of the economy and we will also make sure that part of this pension can be used as a security for some small development projects for families,” he said.
“For example; if a family would want to buy two cattle, they can use this.”
“They can ask for a small financial loan, meaning they can get maybe $1,050tala and then they can devote the other $125 tala to secure that and pay for that loan then they will get those two cattle.”
“[And] within a year, that loan will be paid off but what the pensioner will get out of this small project is the cattle will reproduce giving the family an opportunity to generate some money.”
“And that’s how it starts so within the five year period that family will have a full cattle farm with about 30 plus cattle in the farm.”
“So we are not only saying that we will increase the pension for the sake of the pensioner, but there are also economic reasons why we are saying that.”
“We are not only providing it to look after and assist the senior citizens, but it can also be used as part of a stimulant to stimulate growth for their own projects.”
Afualo reiterated that most of the families in Samoa are relying heavily on the pension.
“This idea can be used by the senior citizens but at the same time rather than utilizing them fully to pay for the consumption of goods and services but encouraging them to use these avenues for small development projects,” he said.
“So that is the bigger picture for the economy and we are saying that the major theme of the manifesto is that law and justice and social economic prosperity is for all.”
“We are not targeting just those who have got the wealth but we are looking at the bigger picture because very significant portions of the population are under the poverty line even though Tuilaepa doesn’t believe that there is poverty which I’m quite amazed by that.”
So how do they plan to finance it?
“This will be one of the core policies that will be activated because there are resources,” said Afualo.
“We can strictly scrutinize the whole government machinery and look at finances and revenues that are mismanaged including those advisory boards that Palusalue has been talking about.”
“We can also make sure that S.O.E.’s stay above board and then from there, we will be able to fund the pension,” he said.
“Palusalue also mentioned something about the social benefits for those with special needs and yes we will do that because we say that there is law and justice and social economic development for all, not just the few.”
“So we are not neglecting our family members who have special needs. Even if it’s $100 tala a month it will go a long way and there’s not many of them.”
“I know it’s not much but at least we deliver on the promise that there will be social justice and prosperity for all and that no one is left behind.”