Chamber executive council gets new members

The two new faces on the Samoa Chamber of Commerce executive council share a passion to listen to their members, and enable the private sector to succeed.

Following a successful annual general meeting last month, the Chamber members reelected their president and also voted in Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai and Tom Hogarth to the council, who begin orientation with the others next week.

Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai, founder and director of Samoa Stationary and Books (SSAB) said she sees one of her roles in the Chamber to help find synergies and common interests among the private sector.

“For me personally, I want our people to grow, especially those who want to get into business,” she said.

She suggested Government could play a role in more deeply investing in young businesses, relieving the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (MCIL) of some of the work it is doing to develop the private sector.

“MCIL can then focus more on regulatory matters whilst the proposed organisation would concentrate on facilitating investment,” she said.

“That organisation doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel as it can also look at what is working in other countries and adapt them here in Samoa, like in Fiji or Singapore.”

The Government-run organisation Investment Fiji is the marketing arm of government, which promotes investments in the nation, and is a liaison between government and private sector. Tofilau said despite Fiji being much larger than Samoa, this model could work here too.

“The Government can also look at streamlining its own current processes,” she said.

“For example, if one were to apply for incentives the application is vetted by MCIL before it goes to the Investment Committee and then to Cabinet.

“If Government land is involved to be leased in such venture, then the Government Land Board is to be also engaged on a different level. Whilst it is a good process, it can be lengthy and therefore discouraging to investors.”

The Chamber of Commerce could be instrumental in developing such an organization, said Tofilau, and to further help businesses to thrive in Samoa thanks to enabling policies, and ensuring they are consulted by government early in the policy writing process, not “later on down the line.”

“For example, Chamber can review with Samoa Law Reform Commission how Chamber can be more effective in representing the interests of its members in the law making process.”

Tofilau, as well as a businesswoman, has a legal background and previously worked in Government. She hopes all that experience will be of service to the Chamber, as it continues working closely with the public sector.

Negotiating with government, writing and delivering submissions and building working relationships are all things Tofilau thinks she can bring to the table.

“I want to be more actively involved with the work of the Chamber, especially when it comes to face to face negotiations, meetings and consultations with Government officials,” she said.

The general manager of Transam Samoa, Tom Hogarth said he had been asked for several years to run, and finally took up the challenge this year.

He said after a “good for your country” talk, he stepped up, and was overwhelmed by the support he received by Chamber membership.

“That that support now motivates me to do the best I can,” he said. “I am new to this so will not be rushing to make any changes.

“The Chamber has good people and experience in place. I just hope to add good input and help the Chamber where I can.”

Mr Hogarth said the shipping, logistics and transport sector sees how the economic grows, or doesn’t. “Motivating trade, growth and development is the goal,” he said, but it needs to be done responsibly and sustainably.

“Trying to keep up with all these changes is one of the main tasks of Chamber while also attempting to gather valid and useful input from members to help government adjust for private sector needs,” he said.

“A thriving economy will ship a lot of volume and the more we ship the larger the economies of scale effect will be. So simply finding ways to motivate growth and development will help our sector as a whole.”

On the council, Mr Hogarth hopes to offer a few bright ideas, and a unique viewpoint. He said his varied group of mentors has grown his skillset, so he can in turn help others.

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