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Looking for leadership on labour “mobility”?

Don’t look south or west.

In either of those directions you’ll find token amounts.

There is New Zealand under its seasonal worker scheme, which looks to have reached successful levels only when compared with the pitiful numbers achieved by Australia.

No, for leadership on access to labour markets, Samoa must look eastwards - immediate east, as in the country’s next door neighbour and long lost twin, “American” Samoa.

There, Starkist Samoa employs thousands of people, many of them not from the territory itself but from here, the independent state of Samoa.

This week the cannery is celebrating its 50th anniversary, an event marking what Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga describes as their “shift to a modern economy.”

Moliga told local newspaper Samoa News that Starkist is now the “ the single largest producing tuna cannery in the world.”

The vast bulk of its output goes to the United States, some 6,000 containers annually, or around 120,000 tons of tuna. Another 500 containers go to Australia and South East Asia.

What do those figures mean here in Samoa?

A lot.

April statistics from the Central Bank Samoa show that American Samoa is the third largest source of visitors to this country, after New Zealand and Australia, bringing in $3.2 million for April alone.

Remittances added another $1.3 million tala.

That the cannery drives the economy of American Samoa is undoubted.

What may get taken for granted however is the freedom that many Samoans enjoy to access that economy, travelling between the two halves of what was once one culture.

That freedom seems to be reciprocated.

American Samoans can also be found here, raising children and working jobs, following partners and family links, almost as if colonial borders that divide western and eastern Samoa never existed.

And that, really, is how it should be.

Yet trade talks over the last few years give the appearance that New Zealand and Australia are on the opposite side of the planet, not right next door.

Both countries have rejected calls from island countries to balance free trade talks with free access opportunities.

How far apart are we on this issue?

Samoans who are repeat visitors to New Zealand and Australia often feel like they are from another planet altogether when they are forced to answer the same questions, over and over, for visa applications they need, again and again.

New Zealand, in particular, needs to revisit what is said to be a “unique” treaty of “friendship” and stop giving the cold fish treatment to people who have no intention, and never will, of overstaying, anywhere.

There are also the long standing cultural ties between two Polynesian countries. Perhaps New Zealand immigration and trade officials could pay a visit to American Samoa and see what useful lessons could be learned.

To be fair, of course, New Zealand and Australia are already much larger sources of assistance than America, through official aid channels.

Aid, tourism, remittances - along with food, consultants and other imports - come mostly from those two countries.

And yet there remains a yearning for greater equality.

Over the decades, Samoa has had to get over its distaste for begging and appears to have done so, to the point where the country is now getting quite good at it - on both the street level and the diplomatic level.

Samoa does not want to beg.

It wants to compete.

That there is natural talent to compete can easily be seen in our sports teams, especially the rugby, and the carefulness which much bigger countries avoid meeting Manu Samoa on home ground.

Yes, some Samoans have trouble adjusting to life in modern economies overseas. Some drink too much to bury their culture shock, fail to find work, rob, steal, beat their children, rape, murder and grab other headlines for various reasons.

Such failures are not limited to Samoans however.

Nor can all problems be blamed on culture shock. A more accurate diagnosis might be future shock, where there are rising levels of alienation and depression among populations expected to provide endlessly increasing levels of productivity.

Similar challenges face American Samoa, where the desire to raise minimum wages in the territory next door to US levels is facing profit pressure from a cannery that may in future close down and relocate somewhere else, where wages are lower.

It’s complicated, sure.

What seems to be simple is that if New Zealand and Australia want to open trade markets in the region, they will have to do better addressing island demands for open labour markets.

Simpler still may be the notion that both sides have come up with bargaining positions that neither want to agree to - we’ve all got something none of us want to give.

If that’s the case, then it seems like an opportunity to recreate accomplishments like the world’s largest tuna cannery risk getting lost.

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Comments 

 
+3 #9 Avataute 2013-09-05 13:44
Quoting citizen:
Governments are not run by angels, hence will always encounter mistakes. One would have to stop and take a closer look then you will know what this government have done for our country.


lol if government were run by angels there wouldn't be a need to criticize them, and if they made mistakes, they would've learned from them already.
 
 
-9 #8 citizen 2013-08-29 12:31
If you can come up with proof of your "100s of millions of unaccounted for" accusation, then I will confidently say you are not a liar as you have called us. Remember a few bad apples can destroy the whole punch. You have only pointed out the wrong decisions made by a few which have certainly destroyed the efforts of all other public servants who are working tirelessly for the development of this nation. What you must do is ask yourself what have you done for your country? If you still insist that we should change this government then vote them out! or better go run for the general elections and let's see if you can do a better job.
 
 
+4 #7 JT.L 2013-08-28 02:15
Quoting citizen:
Governments are not run by angels, hence will always encounter mistakes. One would have to stop and take a closer look then you will know what this government have done for our country.


Citizen, there's a huge difference between a mistake and deliberate corruption. Are you trying to say that 100s of millions of unaccounted for, misuse and abuse of public funds and resources is a mistake? Get a life will ya! Soia kou ke kala pepelo...
 
 
-11 #6 citizen 2013-08-27 13:47
Governments are not run by angels, hence will always encounter mistakes. One would have to stop and take a closer look then you will know what this government have done for our country.
 
 
+6 #5 Avataute 2013-08-27 12:26
A very nice perspectives and a new way of viewing our neighboring brother from a different direction, and as always, a bother is born for adversity, A. Samoa may very well be our savior with the way every organizations in our government are coming out in the red economically. lol
 
 
+10 #4 Sefo Pale 2013-08-26 15:49
Quoting JT.L:
....continued....

If nothing was achieved since HRPP came to power 30 yrs ago, then nothing will be achieved within the next 5 years let alone another 30. They’ve yet to come up with ideas on how Samoa can develop economically. All they seem to be good at and are now famous for is pass new laws to silence & suppress the people & media, flex their muscle on villages, misuse & abuse public funds & resources, etc. Samoa has no hope for better changes with this govt. Time for Change.

I agree its "Time For Change"
 
 
+9 #3 JT.L 2013-08-24 18:58
Petelo, after reading the first two lines of your comment I knew it would be followed by a heap of rubbish. You talk about strategics, what strategic plan? For any strategic plan to work in Samoa, the govt must first investigate and remove alleged corruption; misuse & abuse of public fund and resources; etc. Isn’t it part of your govt’s strategic plan for Customs not to collect 4 – 5 years of revenue and duties amounting up to an estimated $300million, Samoa Port Authority’s $200million debt that has led to outrages increase of fees by 2000% that the people will be expected to pay; the Aleipata wharf still incomplete with $50million spent on it generating zero income, not to mention all the equipment & steel still there rusting away; etc….I don’t know where to stop but the list goes on and on….For this country to be developed economically, it is a MUST that the HRPP govt resign before any talk of strategy takes place….All govt ministries must be audited, and all govt members & employees involved or have allegations against them must be investigated and prosecuted – all be held accountable! As the truth becomes exposed the noose tightens! I hate to be in yours & your govt shoes, looking over the shoulder as paranoia sets in….
 
 
-10 #2 Petelo 2013-08-21 14:46
JTL,

The plan for the country is contained in the Strategy for the Development of Samoa (SDS) 2012-2016. The current plan and all previous SDS are on the Ministry of Finance website for your bedtime reading.

Public sector reforms since the late 1990s have opened up most sectors of the economy to private sector competition and increased efficiencies.

5 examples that have won wide international praise are as follows:

1. The break-up of the old Ministry of Works to several private companies who compete for tenders on infrastructure projects (mostly roads). The expenditure on roading projects is the same as it was in 2002, yet the road network has tripled. Maximum efficiency and cost-effective use of taxpayers money.

2. The distribution of bulk oil shipments to private companies has kept fuel prices amongst the lowest in the pacific. Good for businesses.

3. The privatisation of Samoatel has provided a genuine competitor to Digicel, ensuring low prices for phones and call rates. Good for businesses.

4. The deregulation of the finance sector has ensured the increasing number of banks which assists the liquidity of the finance market to support the private sector through increased flow of credit.

5. UTOS has provided an innovative solution to fund private sector investment as well as public infrastructure without having to rely on aid all the time. It will continue to grow in the years to come.
 
 
+7 #1 JT.L 2013-08-21 07:39
....continued....

If nothing was achieved since HRPP came to power 30 yrs ago, then nothing will be achieved within the next 5 years let alone another 30. They’ve yet to come up with ideas on how Samoa can develop economically. All they seem to be good at and are now famous for is pass new laws to silence & suppress the people & media, flex their muscle on villages, misuse & abuse public funds & resources, etc. Samoa has no hope for better changes with this govt. Time for Change.
 

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