Better communication could’ve done the trick

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The truth is simple enough. No one would say no to faster and cheaper Internet connection as promised by the Tui Samoa Cable. Beautiful stuff.

But on the road from here to that promise, no one would like to be hungry and pay a lot more for a can of elegi either as a result of shipping disruptions likely to be caused if the Matautu Wharf is closed for a period of more than a month.

The issue surfaced earlier this week when the government revealed moves to assure minimal disruption to shipping schedules when the Tui Samoa Internet Cable is installed between August and October.

According to the General Manager of the Samoa Ports Authority (S.P.A), Aiganalaavasa Uialatea Fereti, the government is working with the relevant stakeholders to ensure vital supplies are not affected.

 “We want to make sure that the adjusted schedule will not disrupt any supplies and other deliverables through our ports,” Aiganalaavasa assured, adding that they have already conducted shipping agents in relation to the plan. 

The General Manager of S.P.A said they are not considering the full closure of the port.

“That is not included in our plan,” he said. “That is not possible; we cannot do such a thing as we know how important it is for wholesales and other companies to have their goods imported as scheduled. So such a thing will never happen.”

Well at least that is some form of assurance.

But it would have been nice if members of the business community were consulted, wouldn’t it? Why did the government not think of the importers, exporters, wholesalers and everyone who relies on shipping before their plan?

We couldn’t agree more with the comments made by Lei on the front page of the newspaper you are reading.

 “The government’s decision not to talk to the importers was crazy,” he said.

 “We are responsible for bringing food into Samoa, for selling to other shops as well as for the public as a whole. And yet we were never told and our opinion was never sought.

“If we cannot bring this food, there will be an economic disaster. If we do not bring in food – people will not eat.” 

This is easy enough to understand, especially if the wharf is closed for more than a month.

Like most of us, Lei said he supports the Cable connection but the whole planning is mess.

Now having been told by the Chamber of Commerce that the wharf is likely to be closed for more than a month, who wouldn’t be worried?

“The implications are huge,” he said. “No imports of any food (and fuel) for this period. It means we must order in advance. The problems with this is that the costs will be (supply and demand). There will be interest cost on borrowed money to finance abnormal purchases, getting a vessel to carry goods (shipping companies probably have no vessel available at such short notice.”

“And all this means higher prices for consumers.”

Like Lei, Palestina Pita, of Betham Brothers, supports the Cable project.

But the fact the government has just notified them about the disruption at such short notice is frustrating.

“We’ve already had some cancellations,” she said.  

“Two (cruise ships) have already redirected to Pago Pago. Next year a cruise that cancelled this year, cancelled next year because they don’t want to go through the hassle of maybe yes, maybe no.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more businesses are likely to be affected and this is the last thing the private sector needs.

 “I think they need better communication,” Palestina said. 

“We just wish the Samoa Ports Authority and the Ministry consulted us earlier. I guess it’s for the betterment of Samoa, I just wish they planned it a bit better.”

We couldn’t agree more. 

It’s ironic that since the Cable comes under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology where you would think the communication channels would have been a bit better.

But I guess this is what we should expect in a one-party state where the government could anything at anytime it likes. 

What do you think?

Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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