Private sector should put hands up

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries said he is keen to see private sector take over government projects going forward.

Government does the initial research and investment, Mininster Lopao’o Natanielu Mua said, so that private sector professionals can put up their hand and say “I could run this.”

“Take for example the taro whiskey we launched,” he said.

“I am actually trying to kick the private sector to get involved in these things.

“We do the research so they don’t have to spend money on that, we do the research through S.R.O.S, and then we offload it to them,” he said.

The Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S) works to develop unique products and solutions, like the whiskey, breadfruit flour and more.

Minister Lopao’o said of course a contract which benefited S.R.O.S with royalties to ensure their work is supported. 

Next on the minister’s list of government enterprises ripe for private sector is Agri-Tourism park, earmarked for ten acres at Nu’u.

The park hasn’t been built yet, but Lopao’o said he hopes a business savvy individual will be keen to take it over from government when the time is right.

“The government is already committed to encouraging the private sector in every respect. 

“We are not going to go into this business by ourselves,” he said.

Lopao’o said he won’t be accepting just anyone to take over the park. Interested business people who say they have financial backing and “business acumen” will be asked to prove it, he said.

“No more talk,” Lopao’o warned.

“We’ll say okay, let’s look at the money – not because we are being nosy but we need to know that the person is financially solid before we can commit.”

But there is no guarantee anyone in the private sector is looking to operate an agri-tourism park of ten acres in Nu’u. When asked what the ministries will do if no one volunteers, Lopao’o was clear.

“If nobody comes we will have to do the best we can, run it successfully. 

“I am not a failure; I am not going to fail for as long as I am here.”

But experienced business people are still the target market for the eventual private sector handling of the park, not small or medium holder farmers from around the island.

“Not many farmers in Samoa have the capacity to run a business, though there are some,” said Lopao’o.

“I like the idea of encouraging our people to run businesses but it’s not that easy. I would love them to, but the business they know better is to run their plantation.

The minister, who hails from Asau on Savaii said he is always encouraging his family and friends to invest in their farms, rather than look for work in Apia.

“It’s like what Vaai [Kolone] said, there is money under the trees. I believe that.”

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