‘Let's not forget’
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has cautioned the country against believing election promises that encourage a spoon-feeding mentality.
“We don’t want to go back to what led to the strike of 1981 when the government was broke,” Tuilaepa said.
“Not only did the government not have any money, there were no foreign reserves. That’s why the shelves in the shops were empty; we had six months where they was no cigarette available anywhere. All we had to eat were chicken bones. So that’s what we’ve got to be very careful about.”
The Prime Minister was responding to an announcement by the Tautua Party where they revealed a number of initiatives they plan to implement if they win the General Elections in March.
Among the plans is a National Education Fund proposing free education, increasing the retirement pension, free health care for children, a Medicare insurance scheme among others.
“These guys want everything to be spoon fed,” Tuilaepa reacted. “They want to give everything for free and yet they don’t want to borrow money. How can you fund all this?
“If only trees will bear fruit with hundred tala notes but that doesn’t happen. That’s why the government is very careful about its plans.
“Implementing these plans is not as easy as making a promise.”
Back in 1981 when the ruling Human Rights Protection Party first came into power, Tuilaepa said the then Prime Minister, the late Tofilau Eti Alesana appointed him as the Minister of Finance to put in place a strategy to get Samoa out of the hole it had found itself in at the time. Fast forward to today, Tuilaepa said the government continues to exercise caution when it comes to making development plans.
“Our manifesto will be guided by policies that are already in place,” he said. “There is a timeline for that and we will reveal it closer to the election day. We do that because we want people to remember it. So on 19 February 2016, we will announce our Manifesto.”
Tuilaepa said their election plans not something they put together overnight.
“We’ve been planning and preparing our manifesto for some time now and its nearly completed.” Looking at the Tautua Party’s election plans, Tuilaepa said they are very weak. Take the promise of a National Education Fund for example. Tuilaepa said the focus of the Tautua’s plan is wrong.
“The government emphasizes the importance of education from the young kids to college… the reason being is that these are formative years, if something is missed, the kids cannot progress.
“That is why we in Cabinet make a point of attending the opening of primary schools because we want to promote this message about the importance of education at that age.
“We want to encourage the parents to push their children in these years because if they miss out, you cannot teach them anymore as they are already dumb.” Tuilaepa said the Tautua’s plan lacks a proper foundation.
“You cannot talk about the end unless you start from the beginning. If the beginning is poor, there is no hope in the end. That’s why we place so much emphasis on early childhood education because this is where it all starts.
“From what I can see about their initiative, they are copying the system in rich countries like New Zealand and Australia where they have student loans. The students will borrow money for their studies and when they are finished and find work, they will pay it back.
“The government at one stage considered that but we saw that it is not appropriate for Samoa.
How can people pay these loans when even with loans people are taking out for developments and yet they cannot pay? It means it is a recommendation that is bound to fail. “It adds unnecessary stress on the students.
This government will not come up with an infinitive that adds stress on students, making their brains sick.
If students borrow and they fail, how can they pay then? The burden of responsibility will fall back on the parents. This is why I am saying it’s a poorly planned initiative.” As for the free health care promise for children aged 1 to 5, Tuilaepa laughed saying the Tautua Samoa Party don’t understand.
“If that happens, it means we are going backwards. The current practice is that 1 to 15 year olds are not paying anything.
“At the outpatient for consultation and treatment, it is free. That includes people 65 years and over who are under the pension scheme, they also have it for free. If they are admitted, they stay at the hospital for free.
Tuilaepa pointed out that antenatal checks are being done for free and so is treatment for sexually related illnesses, mental health patients and special needs patients.
“This is what I mean by saying they are turning back the clock,” Tuilaepa said. “It’s been 15 years since these services have been offered for free and yet this party doesn’t understand. What’s happening is that their research is not being done properly to confirm these things before they make an announcement.”