Walking out those promises

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 29 July 2016, 12:00AM

Our leaders have been saying lots of wonderful stuff lately. They are promises and feel good statements that should motivate us all to do exceedingly well.

Take for example Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s vision for Samoa to improve its exports. During the recent validation workshop of the Diagnostic Trade Integrated Study Update Tuilaepa made it clear that he wants to increase exports, commercial investments and take advantage of opportunities offered through labour mobility. 

Wonderful. Who doesn’t want that?

Now let’s talk about the word vision. The scriptures tell us explicitly that without a vision, people will perish. Which means that if there is a vision, we can at least be sure there’s something to look forward to. There is hope.

Tuilaepa’s and the government’s drive for more exports is without a doubt a wonderful vision that should help improve livelihoods and change lives for the better. Who doesn’t want an improved quality of life anyway? Why do we want mediocrity when there is a better life to be lived? To be sure, who doesn’t get excited about the possibility of a brighter future?

As mere mortals, there is always that longing to be better. So we go about our daily lives making the best out of every minute. We work until we drop and we push boundaries to the limit. Many of us give our all day after day to whatever career paths we have chosen until we cannot give any more.

Setbacks though are aplenty. That is a given. We know that in today’s constantly evolving global society, disturbing social acts of an unusual nature are to be expected from time to time.

But we are a determined lot. History lives to remind of mankind as a group of overcomers. In other words, we do not give up easily. We try; sometimes we fail but we get up again. We live to fight another day.

In Samoa today, it’s fair to say we’re not problem-free, far from it. 

You only need to flick through the editions of your newspaper during the past few months to find the truth about life in Samoa. Whereas the threat of civil differences escalating continues to hang over this country especially in some villages, hostility and lawlessness has claimed precious lives, leaving many people sad and downhearted.

Still, Prime Minister Tuilaepa – as any other government – are determined to push on with what needs to be done. 

Speaking of the Diagnostic Trade Integrated Study launched some six years ago, it must be said that it is a wonderful document. It was produced with the overarching goal of increasing the competitiveness of Samoa’s economy.

Today, we believe there are questions that must be answered. Among them are these: what were the lessons learnt during the past six years? And will those lessons be applied as we look to the next six years with the idea of improving the state of the economy?

We ask these questions because if we want to move forward, we need to look back and learn from our mistakes. Looking at life in Samoa today, the state of the economy is extremely worrying.

You only need to look at the standard of living for some people in the villages to know that many of them have become unacceptably poor. They mainly rely on remittances and hand-outs to get by. It’s difficult to imagine what this country will become when remittances stop.

The unemployment figures in Samoa are scary. What’s worrying is that when you drive through the villages on any given day, you would see abled-bodied men roaming around doing nothing.

Agriculture continues to be a problem area. While there has been much talk about working the land, development has been slow. And because of that, our export figures are not even worth thinking about. Which makes Tuilaepa’s export dream an extremely difficult task.

Elsewhere, the government continues to pin its hopes on tourism as the mainstay of the economy. And yet if you talk to many tourism operators out there, they’re bleeding quite badly. The most common reaction is that they’re not getting the numbers they need to be able to make money and expand their businesses. So what has the government been doing to attract tourists to Samoa?

What about businesses? Is the environment enabling them to flourish and grow? How about Health? Education? Basic utilities? How have they improved during the past four years? These are key questions.

It is one thing to have a vision but it’s quite another to commit to it and do what’s necessary to ensure that vision is realised.

There is absolutely no doubt that Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the government’s vision to improve exports is sound. 

But how that could be achieved is the key question. And is the government willing to put money where its mouth is?

One of the solutions and this will be a challenge for Prime Minister Tuilaepa is to relate this vision to the people so that they can take ownership of it as theirs.

If people don’t share or agree with the vision, the government will find it very difficult to move forward with it. That much is guaranteed.

The point is that everyone has a role to play. The government has a job to do and we – as members of this community – also have a contribution to make.

And now that Prime Minister Tuilaepa has made it succinctly clear that his government’s focus is on increasing exports, they need to walk the talk. Start by coming up with new ideas about how to bottle the juice from all those wonderful and exotic fruits of our land we see rotting every where on a daily basis? 

Folks, feel good statements and promises mean nothing if they are only made for the sake of saving face. We live in a critical time where we really need leaders who walk the talk. What do you think? 

Have a great Friday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 29 July 2016, 12:00AM

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