It is the future generations of Samoa we should be thinking about

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 31 January 2018, 12:00AM

A lot has been said about Samoa’s debt, aid and why we shouldn’t be panicking about the state of the economy during the recent past. 

Take for example last week in Parliament where Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, his Cabinet Ministers and certain Members of Parliament made a concerted effort to drum up the country’s financial position and how each and every one of us should be grateful to the government for where we are today. 

Hardly surprising of course! It’s not as if we would expect them to say anything differently, would we? You see one of the best things about being “free” as La’auliolemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt alluded to last week is being able to speak your mind without any fear. 

Which makes sense. In his position where you can perhaps say he has fallen from grace, you’ve got nothing else to lose except to tell it as it is. And he did not disappoint, repeatedly warning the government against running the country on a deficit. 

He also cautioned against borrowing and the need to be more prudent with finances, calling on government officials to use public resources wisely and avoid abuse.

The warning is not new. But hearing it from a different voice, especially someone who has been there all those years, he would have known something about the abuse and everything else that goes on at the halls of power. 

He also would know a lot about the growing uneasiness about Samoa’s debt to China, which has become the subject of much discussion on these pages and other media forums – including the social media.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Tuilaepa vehemently rubbished claims that Samoa’s debt to China has reached unsustainable levels.

 “It’s wrong, it’s totally wrong,” he said. “Look for a report issued by the Central Bank that is where the accurate information is found. It also indicates the amount (owed) to China.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if he just gave us a ballpark figure rather than referring us to another report that probably wouldn’t tell us a thing? In any case, the Prime Minister again gave us a story we have heard time and time again.

“There is no need to be concerned over the totality of the debt, because it’s not important. What is more important is the annual repayment that is how a country should address its debt,” he said.

 “It is stupid to look at the totality of the loan, the assumption the loans are to be paid next week. That is ridiculous. There are loans that have a grace period of 30 years and that is why it is important to distinguish the totality of the loan and the ability to pay the loan.”

Thirty years or a hundred years it doesn’t matter. The fact is we still have to pay it. Period. 

Now we also had China’s Ambassador to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng, who swiftly assuaged fears over Samoa’s debt to China. Pressed on how much China has given to Samoa in terms of grants and loans, Mr. Xuefeng said:  “I don’t have any specific statistics at hand to give a very good comment.

 “The Prime Minister answered that he believes Samoa has the capability to repay the loans and has ample capacity to pay on an annual basis. 

“Now, as far as I know, all Chinese projects offered at this time are in the form of grants. In the past two and a half years that I have served here, it has all been grants.” 

Again, it would be wonderful to get some real numbers, how much of the aid is grant and how much is the loan.

The truth about Samoa is simple enough. When you get past all these diplomatic and political garbage, the problem for Samoa today is that by continuing to sing this tune that there is nothing to worry about, this government is creating a false sense of security for our people. People think they are okay, they are swayed by these big impressive developments – some they don’t need and the sweet talk. 

The reality is that they are suffering. There is emptiness; there is a big void you can see in people’s eyes. They are desperate. And they need help.

We’ve said this before and we will say it again today. Everything happening in Samoa, from tax laws, redefining the role of the sa’o in families, pulenu’u, customary land consultations, to the review of taxes and charges, opportunities for employment overseas and more are geared towards paying a foreign debt created by this government that has ballooned uncontrollably over the years. 

And everyone will have to pay. One way or another. It’s not just money; it’s going to cost us everything we have, including our inheritance. We are seeing it already with the massive influx of Asians in Samoa. 

The reality is; give the current leadership another 15 years or even less to continue their defiance and they will pass on eventually. At six feet under, they wouldn’t have to worry about anything. 

The worst part is they cannot be held accountable then. 

And many of us might not even be around then when the chickens come home to roost. It is the future generations of this country who will suffer. They are the ones we should be concerned about. Today.

Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 31 January 2018, 12:00AM

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