Don’t you think it is just downright cruel?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 25 September 2016, 12:00AM

Whether we like it or not, there is something extremely sad when we think about the government’s extravagant spending while so many people are wallowing in sheer hardship and relative poverty in this country. 

You don’t need to look further than the fact the majority of workers in Samoa remain on the measly minimum wage of barely $2 an hour. 

This is daylight robbery in our opinion considering the skyrocketing cost of living and demands of every day Samoan life. It becomes even harder to swallow when we stop to consider the millions wasted by the government of the day through one failed project after another. 

We don’t need to tell you anymore. But if you must insist on examples, for the past couple of weeks, we’ve been highlighting the millions wasted in a number of those facilities at Tuana’imato – and buildings elsewhere - that are slowly but surely rotting to the ground. 

And yet the government’s penchant to invest in big buildings and infrastructure that would eventually turn to white elephants continues. 

You see, there are a couple of multi-million-tala projects in the pipeline that are truly mind blowing. While on the surface they appear necessary, one really has to question the wisdom on whether it is the best way to spend our limited resources – at such a time as this.

We say this because looking around Samoa today; things are not as rosy as people would say. Yes we’ve got more flashlights, taller buildings, more vehicles and what have you but as they say, all that glitter is not gold. 

It certainly isn’t for the most vulnerable members of the community whom we feel continue to lag behind on so many fronts. 

Over recent weeks the Samoa Observer’s Village Voice has been making some eye-opening disclosures with stories about the “reality” of living in “paradise.” 

These stories without a doubt would dent our egos and bring us back to reality. They are the sorts of stories the power and mighty don’t want the outside world to know. Even some village leaderships and church people in Samoa would deny outright what’s being told by these people. 

But that’s okay. The truth hurts. Whereas the demands of everyday Samoan life are driving some people to the edge, the cry for the very basic necessities like water, roads and street lights tells us there is a lot more work to be done.

Now they say a picture is worth a thousand words. 

Some of the ones we’ve been publishing of people, their everyday lives and the kinds of shelters they call home are heartbreaking. It’s difficult not to become affected. 

We should feel sad with them. The stories of mothers trying their very best to make ends meet, grandmothers who continue to toil day in and day out, fathers and husbands working the land and many other heartbreaking stories of struggles and hardship. 

Interestingly, one of the most common complaints from these village folks is the minimum wage and the lack of revenue generating opportunities. They are not wrong. In fact, they have a legitimate point. 

What is stopping the government from increasing the minimum wage? 

They could probably fund an increase with the cost of some of those pimped up government vehicles we see running up and down the road day and night without any control. 

Or they might like to reduce some of those trips to wherever in the world for meetings which have very little importance for Samoa. It would be interesting to find out how much is spent on an annual basis on these trips.

Subsequently, it was intriguing that recently the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, denied claims his new office’s refurbishment cost the public “half a million tala.”

 “That is absolutely not right,” Sili said. “It’s a standard office with a meeting room and space for my secretary. The office is a part of the Central Bank’s renovation upgrading in its 6th and 7th floors.”

Okay then. Fair enough. But how much did it cost? What is so secretive about the cost of a publically-funded project? 

We know Faumuina Liuga’s former office at the S.N.P.F Plaza cost $600,000 so why is the government not telling us how much the new Minister of Finance’s office cost? 

It’s not such a hard question. Does nobody care about the truth anymore? Or has the old catch cry about transparency and accountability been thrown out the window? In any case, you be the judge.

But let’s come back to the issue of the minimum wage. Not so long ago, the Coordinator of the Samoa First Union, Jerome Mika, made an excellent case for an increase of the minimum wage to $3. 

“Lifting the minimum wage is about fairness and equal relationships,” Mr. Mika argued in a column he wrote for this newspaper. “While profits are rising for many businesses, wages aren’t. A handful of wealthy overseas-based companies are creaming it while Samoans see their hard work, ingenuity and perseverance not rewarded in the way it should.”

“Samoa has so much good work to be done, roads to be paved, kids to be taught, tourists to be hosted,” he said. “But when people are not paid enough to sustain their families and villages, or told to work more for less, then the workplace and the country isn’t running fairly.” 

 “We can’t forget the principle of equal relationships. We cannot allow anyone to be paid less than they need to live a good life and provide for their families. People’s hard work should be recognised and rewarded.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we couldn’t agree more with Mr. Mika. Every single point he has made will strike a chord with Samoans at all levels.

High-ranking officials in the public and private sector with their conscience intact will know that some of these people are being robbed when it comes to their wages. 

And the poorest of the poor in Samoa today will know this themselves. For years, they have had to put up with this.

We are talking about hard working fathers, mothers and young people of this country who have had to endure such an injustice for so long. 

Imagine how demoralising it must be to open that pay cheque at the end of the week only to find a few talas after all that trouble at work? Some of them are out in the sun all day, having to put up with some of the most trying working conditions.

Regardless of the circumstances, when we look at the minimum wage of $2.30 an hour compared to the cost of living – and the millions wasted through mismanagement, abuse of power and corrupt practices within the government - don’t you think this just downright cruel, immoral? 

Don’t be shy to share your thoughts with us and suggest some ways we can continue to push this issue for the sake of our beloved Samoa.

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless! 

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 25 September 2016, 12:00AM

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