Minister addresses private sector gripe

The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Lautafi Fio Purcell, has admitted that the growing number of public holidays – including ad-hoc holidays – is unfair on the business community and the private sector.

 “Of course it is not fair but the Government does not go out of its way to create an unfair environment for our private sector or any one for that matter,” Lautafi told the Sunday Samoan. 

“As Minister of Commerce Industry and Labour, my Ministry has noted their concerns and will consider ways to achieve better outcomes for all concerned.”

According to the Minister, they will seek to ensure that a more consultative approach with the Chamber of Commerce will be taken over the issue of ad hoc holidays.

Lautafi was asked for a comment following a recent letter written to the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi from the Chamber of Commerce. The letter expresses the Chamber’s concerns about the sudden and unplanned removal of a trading day tomorrow, Monday, which puts businesses in the position of facing “severe cash flow challenges.”

In a response to questions from the Sunday Samoan, Lautafi explained that this year the traditional two-day commemoration of Independence Day fell on a weekend and therefore the holiday was put forward to the next working day.

 “In the last three years between 2015 to 2017, we have celebrated Independence over two days,” he said. 

“One day for celebrations and the day after as a public holiday (1st and 2nd of June). However for 2018, the 2nd of June falls on a Saturday so the public holiday is put forward to the next working day which is Monday 4th. I would’ve thought our private sector would have planned for the two days of celebrations as we had done so in recent years and didn’t need to be told.”

The letter from the Chamber of Commerce also pointed out that after assessing M.C.I.L’s published holidays, they have noted that so far this year there are three additional public holidays that were not included in the list and they would appreciate a “no surprises approach that embraces both time notifications so that as necessary, plans might be made”.

Lautafi addressed that concern by explaining that some events are not within the Governments control.

 “There are times where the Government allocates public holidays for specific events that were unplanned for at the beginning of the year. 

“Unfortunately the Government sometimes doesn’t always control these events (e.g State funerals, special national recognition of achievements in sports or likewise, a statutory holiday that falls on the weekend and is put forward to the next working day etc), which means sometimes we end up with an additional public holiday.”

Asked whether it was fair to the business community to be given short notice regarding the addition of unplanned holidays to the national calendar, Lautafi replied: “The Government values the input of the private sector and will look at ways to improve the relationship to ensure a more consultative relationship is in place.” 

On a much broader issue, the members of the Chamber of Commerce appealed to the Government to take a more consultative approach in decisions that will affect the private sector.

Asked for his position over the apparent absence of consultation between the Government and the private sector, Lautafi acknowledged the Chambers concerns and maintained that the Government aims to improve relations between the two sectors. 

 “It is always favorable to have a consultative approach amongst Government and its partners in matters that affect either party that is what this Government wants and strives to achieve and maintain. 

 “The concerns by the Chamber of Commerce have been noted and Government will strive to ensure that wherever possible, more consultation is carried out in future on any new additional public holidays other than the normal holidays that are in the annual calendar of which there are 11.”

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