Why don’t you walk in their shoes?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 22 May 2016, 12:00AM

It’s easy enough to see. Members of the private sector have a legitimate complaint that should be considered.

While it’s all good and dandy for the government to show off by declaring an unprecedented three-day public holiday to celebrate Independence Day this year, the reality is that someone has to fork out to pay for it.

Which is easy for Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his government because they can just reach into the public coffers and away they go. We all know the bitter truth. Whether they work or not, their salaries – and mighty expensive ones that is too - are guaranteed. 

That’s because you and I, the silent submissive taxpayers, are paying for them to have jolly good time. So of course they can afford to relax and ‘go shopping.’

But you can’t say the same about the private sector. 

Which is why you’ve got to feel for them. The so-called engine or the heart beat of economic growth is barely moving and yet it has been dealt another major blow so that by now, the poor thing is just about to give up. 

For one of the biggest private employers in the country, Yazaki Eds Samoa, the upcoming holidays is likely to cost close to a million tala. General Manager, Funefeai Oliva Vaai, said they have estimated that each day would cost $300,000.

That does not include other costs carried by the company to accommodate 800 workers. 

“It’s quite a big loss to our production time and also loss in sales,” he said.

But that’s not the only issue.

“Our business calendar was based on information provided last year which was to have one declared public holiday,” said Funefeai. “But we have now been informed it’s another extra two days and it’s a surprise for us because we have already planned out our production. 

“It means that we have to work overtime, pay penalty rates, prepare extra meals and provide transportation for workers to go home (after work).”

So who came up with this idea of having three public holidays? What were they thinking? 

In announcing the decision, Prime Minister Tuilaepa seemed rather unconcerned. So much he did not even attempt to justify the rationale behind the decision. 

 “No one wants to come back to work on Friday,” he said. 

Really? Are you serious? As if that is baffling enough, then listen to this:

 “There’s something called a commission holiday which we will use again. In Samoan, it’s a day for those that have worked hard in government to relax and do some shopping.”  

Right, what about people who do not work in government? What about people who actually have to earn their money? 

Back to Funefeai, he said that at least Yazaki has the resources to absorb the losses, something he believes many smaller companies will struggle with.

And he has a point. Already the decision has been the source of much frustrations among the business community as the Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce, Hobart Vaai, pointed out. 

“Based on that feedback it would be fair to note that in an already tight economy, a three day holiday announced at relatively short notice will be difficult for the private sector to cope with,” he said. 

“The negative economic impacts across the private sector, particularly the retail sector are estimated to be significant. 

“Two days of celebrations to mark Independence appears to have been the practise in recent times. That would seem to be ample time to enjoy this special national occasion.”

The C.E.O. pointed out that in a significantly shortened week, the private sector is legitimately concerned about the costs associated with having less than half a week of productivity. 

“Revenue opportunities are reduced and so too are opportunities to address ongoing costs,” he said. “The impact of a three days public holiday may have been softened with a longer notice period and sufficient time to plan ahead. 

“On this occasion, timely consultation would have been appropriate.”

And here therein is the issue, which Mr. Vaai has hit on the nail. Public consultation is so vital in this day and age especially with these decisions. If the government is serious about recognising the value of the private sector, it should put its money where its mouth is. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration should stop acting like spoilt little brats and come down to earth to seek a second opinion before making these ridiculous decisions.

One of life’s oldest truths is that you do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Now can these high-flying government officials who declared these public holidays put themselves in the shoes of a struggling private businessperson for a minute?

 Think of that businesswoman who can barely make ends meet? Think of her struggle in terms of debts to pay, compliance costs to meet, taxes owed and then the double salaries for three days if she chooses to work through?

 What about that businessman who just received a foreclosure letter from the bank? Three unproductive days is without a doubt a recipe for disaster. 

And yet that’s precisely where we are heading with this decision by the government. It’s insensitive, arrogant and it doesn’t make any sense given the tight status of this country’s economy. 

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us.

In the meantime, have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 22 May 2016, 12:00AM

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