Of big brains the reality in Samoa today

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 March 2017, 12:00AM

This much is undeniable. Prime Minister Tuilaepa is a clever man.

A holder of two doctorate awards and much, much more in terms of qualifications, he has no match in Samoa. Or anywhere else in the region – and possibly the world.

That’s why anyone else to him is either “idiot”, “stupid” or in the case of the Samoa Observer today, we are “narrow-minded” and a bunch people with “small brains.”

But then what’s new? We’ve seen this time and time again over the years. 

It’s not just this newspaper that has come under fire from the clever Prime Minister. Anyone who dares to question his authority has not been spared.

It reminds us of that famous line he uttered a few years back. When the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F) warned Samoa about our “rising debt”, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa, fired back in the way only he knows how.

 “We have brains too,” he snapped at the I.M.F. “We don’t have to just swallow (whatever advice) is given. We have to use our brains and make a decision that best suits our situation.”

For the uninitiated, the Prime Minister’s response was in relation to the I.M.F’s senior economist, Geoffrey Bannister, urging the government to curtail the accumulation of any more debt. 

“Public debt has risen rapidly in recent years, raising risks to sustainability and leaving little fiscal space to address future disasters. It is thus necessary to begin a process of gradual fiscal consolidation, once the recovery has taken hold,” Mr. Banister warned.

 “Fiscal consolidation” by the way refers to strategies designed to minimise debt carried by a government or a business. In other words – when you strip away all the jargon and the diplomatic speak - the I.M.F was basically telling Samoa to stop borrowing money it cannot afford to pay.” 

But then Tuilaepa didn’t want to have any of it.

Today that debt is still rising. While we cannot be sure about the official figure, the number that has been tossed back and forth during political debates is $1.5billion and climbing. It could possibly be $2bllion.

Over the years, the Prime Minister insisted that it is not the amount of a country’s debt we should be worried about. Rather, it is a country’s ability to service the debt. He then assured that Samoa’s debt service capacity is stable, saying the country is generating more than enough revenue to sustain the debt.

But this particular warning from Mr. Bannister was not the first time the I.M.F had warned Samoa. In 2013, I.M.F. had also cautioned the government against resorting to further “external loans.” Prior to that, the World Bank predicted that Samoa’s debt to Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P) ratio would hit the 65 per cent mark.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are very troubling indicators. We cannot help but wonder how on earth this government, which is struggling enough as it is, will be able to dig us out of this hole. 

Today, Tuilaepa is unhappy about the persistent questions about the Fund’s decision to lend money to foreigners. He said the author of the articles has a “tiny brain.”

“They should go and enlarge their brain. If not, you should hire people with big brains to write your articles.”

To be honest, you don’t need a “big brain” to see that what the government is doing is wrong. In fact, any “idiot” will see that loaning millions to foreigners at such ridiculous interest rates is not only ludicrous; it is putting the future of this country at risk.

We’re sure Tuilaepa and all his “big brain” lauia in government can see this.  

We don’t doubt for one moment that the government is full of extremely intelligent and well-qualified individuals. 

As Prime Minister Tuilaepa would proudly boast, they are all big laui’a. 

But the reality is there for all to see and is glaringly alarming. 

More and more children are becoming street vendors everyday. 

Our land is under threat from policies driven by desperation. Our prized possessions such as matai titles are slowly losing their meaning because they are being bought by anyone who comes to Samoa dangling money. Anyone with enough money can now buy a Samoan passport.

Tourism is a mess. 

Rugby, a once proud sport in Samoa, has become a real pain to watch. 

Now last week, the government’s desperation for cash became crystal clear with plans to tax church Ministers. 

These are acts of desperation by a government that has been turning a blind eye to “corrupt practises,” “mismanagement” and “abuse of public money and resources,” allowing it to run amok for so long that it is now coming back to haunt them in a major way.

Today, we want you to think about the future of this country. We want you to think about your children, my children and the Samoa they would inherit from us. 

We do not want our children, their children and their children’s children to grow up to beg with an insurmountable foreign debt over their heads, where they will find themselves second-class citizens in their own country. 

Sadly that is the direction we are slowly but surely heading.

Does this reflect the wise utilisation of such great brains leading Samoa today – including the big brain of clever Tuilaepa?

Tell us what you think.

Have a productive Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 March 2017, 12:00AM

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