Honesty still the best policy

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 07 May 2018, 12:00AM

The story titled “Recruitment of foreign workers scrutinized” published on page 3 was an interesting read in yesterday’s Samoa Observer.

Taken from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour’s Annual report for 2016-2017, the story highlighted the unquestionable rise in the demand for foreigners working in Samoa. Many of them are being brought over to fill vacancies for domestic work such as babysitting, caregiving and housekeeping, with more and more Samoans recruiting from Fiji, the Philippines and as far as China.

Some people might find this hard to believe but that is the undeniable truth in Samoa today. 

Which poses the question, why are we recruiting babysitters and house workers from those countries? Are there not enough people in Samoa to do that? Are our people not qualified enough? Or is there something far more sinister going on?

The answer is complex. But sometime a few years ago in an editorial titled “Tired of being poor? We need to help ourselves,” this column delved into the crux of this issue. 

We believe it is worth revisiting what we said then given the relevancy of the topic today. At the time, we said there is a lot to be critical about when it comes to our local workforce. We often hear things like they are dishonest, lazy and are quite capable of finding any way to rob their employers. 

And some do. Look at the rapid growth of prisoners at Tafa’igata. Among them are some brilliant minds who have fallen prey to greed, temptation and downright dishonesty.

For the local workforce, the gripe from employers extends to the fact that many of them act like chiefs too often when they should be the Indians. 

It gets considerably worse of course when you add the multiple excuses for poor performance, the countless fa’alavelaves they have to attend (I mean how many times does an uncle really have to die during a year?), the weekly aitalafu (loans) and the lack of appreciation about the mere fact they have a job. 

The latter is a frustrating one because many come crawling when they want a job. In some cases, they literally beg for a job and are given it only to forget what a privileged position it is to be employed considering the hundreds of other people who are unemployed in this country. 

So they go on behaving so badly until they are fired. And the cycle continues.

It’s a vicious cycle indeed, one that has forced many businesses, local and foreign-owned, to look elsewhere for workers.

 Now consider the growing number of foreign housemaids, construction workers and other tradesmen in Samoa for example. When you ask most business people why they have chosen that path, one of the most common answers involves the lack of honesty. They will tell you that some of our own people will rob you of your pants if they can. Yes it is that bad.

From a business standpoint, it’s not hard to understand then why they do what they do. The bottom line comes down to the fact that when employers – or investors for that matter – spend their hard-earned money, they want results.

They don’t need the excuses; they don’t want the headaches, especially having to deal with the dishonesty and the excuses being coughed up for consistently poor performance. 

And fair enough. Who needs that anyway?

The issue for Samoa is that these attitudes are continuing to hurt us, as a country. We talk about being poor, we bemoan the lack of opportunities but sometimes; our people are our own worst enemies. It seems like certain people don’t appreciate the opportunities so that they go around ruining it for others.

When we look around Samoa today, multiple construction contracts are being manned by foreign workers. These guys work from dawn to dusk. All day, every day. We always ask the question of why these jobs aren’t being filled by local workers. They should be, especially in a country where work opportunities are far and few.

At times we blame the government. We lament their failure to secure jobs for locals, which they should be doing. We understand that while Samoa has obligations under international free trade agreements involving foreign workers but surely there must be something in there that prioritises giving jobs to local people.

What’s more, when we look at some of the jobs being done by foreigners in Samoa today, what is so skillful about moving a bunch of rocks and cement from point A to point B? Surely that can be done by a Samoan, can’t it?

The point is that the government must make it a priority to ensure jobs are secured for locals when it comes to these multi-million-tala projects. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not just about securing jobs and giving our people money-making opportunities, it’s about instilling a sense of pride in our people about contributing to the development of their country. 

It’s about them building a legacy where they will be able to tell their children and the future generations of this country. It’s about taking ownership of what is happening in Samoa.

At this point, it is fair to say that is not happening. And the government cannot be blamed solely. Their task is a difficult one too because of the millions involved, these companies do not want to second guess what they will get from local workers.

Which brings us to the point that if we, as Samoans, want to improve our lot, we’ve really got to help ourselves first. We need to start from the basics. 

Say I’m given a job, try getting there on time to start with. If my starting time is 8am, it doesn’t mean I arrive at 8.05am. How about arriving at 7.50am?

I have to try doing a decent job without constantly looking around for something to steal. The boss might not be watching – and there might not be any cameras around – but God is watching nonetheless. The same God we rock up to church on Sundays and pretend he didn’t see what we did.

Also cut out the excuses and just do what you’re paid to do. Stop looking at the other workers and comparing yourself to them, let the bosses see that for themselves.

Most importantly, be honest. There is a reason why they say honesty is the best policy. It’s because when we are honest, everything else falls in place. We work hard, we work ethically and we will be constantly motivated to improve our work and ultimately our lot in life. That brings rewards. Our work will stand out, we will be noticed by our superiors and you will never have to ask for a pay rise.

Have a productive Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 07 May 2018, 12:00AM

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