Why the Government must listen to concerns from the private sector

Listen up folks. Members of the business community have a legitimate complaint and the Government would do very well to pay attention and take notice.

From our standpoint, the decision by the Government to increase Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.) member contributions to 10 percent without even consulting the very people who are expected to pay for it is not only ridiculous, it’s arrogant. 

But then this is typical of what is happening in this country today where the Government can do anything they want without the common courtesy to consult the people who are affected the most – in this case members of the business community.

Now think of the Government’s catch cry of the private sector being the “engine for economic growth.” Really? Is that so? Put it this way, if economic growth was important to Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration, they obviously either forgot to consider the engine or ignored it completely in relation to the S.N.P.F increase.

Why do we say this? Well when the Chief Executive Officer of the S.N.P.F., Pauli Prince Suhren, fronted the Chamber of Commerce on Monday night, he merely confirmed what we’ve feared all along; that the increase has already been approved by Cabinet. 

In other words, whether anybody agrees or not, this is a done deal. As if to add insult to injury, Pauli then suggested that if the Chamber insists on demanding changes, it should go directly to Cabinet.

 “I would advise that perhaps it’s the only other avenue available is to approach Cabinet directly,” he said.  “The law will be changed in May. What goes into the law, including the phased plan, is what is going to happen.”

Incredible isn’t it? Looking back at recent history, when was the last time Cabinet changed its mind about anything raised by concerned members of the public? 

Besides, we can almost already see the Government’s response about the concerns by members of the Chamber. It would probably read something along the lines of that the concerns are by ‘greedy members of the business community wanting to protect their private interests.’ We know. It’s predictable but we’ve seen it time and time again.

The issue here is that the S.N.P.F. increase is not the only cost these poor business people have to try and contend with. This is on top of increases in the cost of other services, taxes, basic utilities and countless other compliance costs.

Indeed, it’s another one of the many increases being rammed down the throats of ordinary people in this country who apparently have absolutely no say in it.

No wonder people are throwing around words like dictatorship and abuse of power? How else do you describe it? What happened to common courtesy and the Government’s promise to create a conducive and an enabling environment to spur business growth? 

If anything, they are killing businesses; many of them are already struggling to stay afloat. Which is sad, isn’t it? 

Ironically, there are millions of outstanding taxes owed to the Government that still remains uncollected. On top of that, there are millions more in terms of monies loaned from the Develop Bank of Samoa that could easily help offset some of these costs if they were collected. 

Today, we urge the Government to consider the concerns expressed by members of the private sector. Their voice deserves to be heard.

 “As a matter of principle we support any initiative that helps the worker. Their incomes are modest and they deserve whatever benefits that they are able to get,” said Ray Hunt, Frankie Company’s Financial Controller. 

“We should look at the impact on employers as well as employees and not lose sight of the fact that it is the private sector creating employment in the first place.” 

Samoa Stationery and Books C.E.O Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai said while the increase is tough on employers, it may not help employees either.

“I do the payroll, I look at the final numbers,” she said. “Some of your contributors actually have less than 50 bucks going into their account, there are so many deductions. That is the reality I am looking at.”

Ah Liki Investments General Manager, Asiata Alex Brunt, urged the S.N.P.F. to consider the impact on the private sector.

 “Our biggest issue is that there have been a lot of surprises in the last 12 to 18 months,” he said. “We are scared there will be more surprises before the year is out. With all these extra costs we pass on, business and sales will generally decline.”

But perhaps the Chief Executive Officer of Skyeye, Fa'aso'otauloa Sam Saili, summed it up best pointing out that with the proposed increases to minimum wage, public sector salaries and 2018’s increase in business licensing fees and now the S.N.P.F. contributions, the business environment is becoming less encouraging.

 “A lot of things are coming into effect around the same time and the environment for business is difficult when you take all of this into account,” he said.

Interestingly, in response to the issue of multiple costs being raised, Pauli said this is “in no way” a cross-government effort. 

“We have not had a secret discussion to raise everything at once,” he said. 

Well isn’t that telling? The truth is that it’s time for these Government entities to talk to each other about what they are doing – especially when they raise costs that impact on the public. That way they can come up with a better plan of rolling them out instead of raising them all at once expecting everyone – especially the business community - to absorb them submissively and silently.

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us.

Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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