Trip down memory lane, license to abuse and the suffering in Samoa today

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 11 October 2017, 12:00AM

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Now several years ago, a couple of Sri Lankans came to Samoa and saw an opportunity. They had a few beers and came up with a plan to set up a company called Desico Samoa Ltd.

As these types do, they promised “millions of tala” for the local economy through trade, jobs, foreign exchange and so forth. Yes heaven and earth type of stuff.

But there was a slight problem. You see they didn’t have money. 

What they did have was a good idea. And they saw there was money to be made here so they hatched a plan to find some money to kick-start the venture.

They then approached the S.N.P.F. at time when the government was strongly pushing for foreign investment in Samoa. The S.N.P.F, under the guidance of Papali’i Panoa Moaala at the time, obviously thought it was a great idea.

They granted the foreigners request and not only did the S.N.P.F grant some money it was a lot of money. Millions in fact.

What followed was an official opening, a cocktail (yes to have a beer for that kind of stuff), there was press conference after press conference to talk up the plan and the hoopla went on for a while.

But like most things that are too good to be true, the party soon ended.

You see the company hit a snag and it immediately evaporated into thin air.

What happened exactly has never been explained and we will probably never know. 

All we know is that millions of tala that belonged to S.N.P.F contributors – including some of the poorest people in this country - disappeared as quickly as it was handed to these foreigners. 

As if that was not painful enough, we were then left with a multi-million-tala facility at the Vaitele industrial zone, which we believe the S.N.P.F, is still trying to get rid of. 

It’s almost as if it exists to be a reminder about how not to waste public monies.

To be fair, the S.N.P.F is not the only government body guilty of wasting taxpayers’ monies. There are many, many examples of failed government projects, which have cost taxpayers millions of dollars. No wonder our foreign debt is creeping so close to the $2billion mark, if it hasn’t exceeded that already.

Another project that continues to be an eyesore is the $5.4million complex built by the Samoa Land Corporation at the Faleata Golf Course. 

The location is ironic because it’s a place where many of these government officials who were involved – including Cabinet Ministers – spend many hours during the day and night at the 19th hole. 

You have to wonder what goes through their minds when they look up and see such a glorious waste of money. The condition of the building is slowly deteriorating. 

We know for a fact the government has been trying for years to find interested bidders to make use of the taxpayers–funded facility. Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his government had a grand dream to turn the facility into a hotel. When they found one interested bidder, the negotiations failed as they could not convince the bidder about the value of the property. 

Later they said it was to be given to another shady organisation from somewhere in South America to use. Again, the deal appears to have gone belly up as we have not heard what has become of the organisation made up of some more smooth talking foreigners.

Have these people not learnt a lesson about these sweet talking foreigners? Were they not around during the case of Desico?

So what do all these stories have in common? And why do we find them interesting in 2017?

Well everyday on the pages of this newspaper there are stories of people who are crying out for basic help. 

They don’t have water, some don’t have electricity, others suffer from poverty of opportunities, which ultimately leads to poverty of the stomach.

And yet everyday in Samoa we are reminded about millions of tala dumped by a reckless government into failed investments that make absolutely no sense. Let’s not forget the wharf at Satitoa.

The question is; who should be held accountable for this? And what can be done to recover this money? Or are we to assume that government officials have a license to use, abuse and waste people’s bitter sweat, tears and hard-earned monies?

Stop for a minute and think about this. If that was your money, would you give it to any Tom, Dick and Sally who walks in the door? Absolutely not.

So why has this government been so reckless with our taxpayers’ money? How many more millions do we need to lose before these government officials wake up? Is it not time for a law to hold these public servants to account for their poor decision making? 

Let us remind you one more time here and now. In Samoa today, there are people suffering from poverty and growing hardship. We see them everywhere. Theirs are stories of a perennial struggle to cope with today’s crippling cost of living, where in doing so they know they must resort to austerity measures to get by; for them there is not a glimmer of hope in sight.

And here we have a government that seems content to just let these millions slip by the wayside as if it’s normal. Come on Samoa, wake up and smell the stench.

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 11 October 2017, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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