Tiavea Airport. Is this a repeat of the failure that is the Satitoa Wharf?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 23 September 2018, 12:00AM

What is going on in Samoa today? What is with the Government’s obsession for these multi-million-tala projects we know will only end up being white elephants, while many poor people of this country continue to suffer from poverty and untold hardship? 

We are talking about the Government’s latest grand dream, a questionable multi-million-tala airport at Tiavea. We say questionable because not only is it not necessary, the likelihood of it succeeding is highly unlikely. 

If recent projects in the area are anything to go by, all you have to do is look at the deteriorating Satitoa Wharf, which cost taxpayers more than $10 million, to get an idea. 

Today, that wharf is an absolute waste of money. More than ten million tala, possibly close to $20 million, was wasted there. Does this country have so much money it can just toss several millions out in the open ocean? Of course not.

So why are we persisting with these so-called projects.

From what we see, there are striking similarities between the Satitoa wharf and the airport being planned at Ti’avea. Like the Satitoa wharf, the airport is intended to make travel between the two Samoas quicker and cheaper. 

How that is possible is anyone’s guess. 

But let’s just consider the logistics and convenience for instance. Who wants to pay $100 tala or more in taxi fare to catch a flight to Pago? And what will become of the Fagali’i Airport then? What’s wrong with the Fagali’i airport now? Didn’t the Government recently spend a lot of money renovating it? So many questions, so few answers. 

You see, when certain public officials in positions of power opt to satisfy their whims at the public’s expense, the rest suffer, especially the poorest of the poor.

Which is precisely what is happening in Samoa today. 

Now isn’t it downright cruel that there are children basically living on the streets, families wallowing in poverty in this country and yet our government is continuing to dump millions of tala into projects that hold little promise of creating wealth or improving people’s lives? 

Isn’t it ironic that there is such an outcry about the Government taxing anything that moves, and hiking taxes left right and centre and yet these projects are being talked up as if they only cost $10 tala? Has anybody asked members of the business community about how tough things are? 

Wouldn’t it have been better to utilise this money to help businesses and the private sector of Samoa, which is supposed to be the engine of economic growth? What about investing more money on doctors and nurses at the hospital? Or to pay more teachers so that the standard of education can be improved?

Now here is another reason why this project is already questionable.

According to a story in the Sunday Samoan last week, the Government has already awarded a $3.57 million tala contract to a company owned by the son of the Associate Minister of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga. 

Asked about the issue of conflict of interest, Peseta said the company is overseen and operated by his son.

“I am not involved in the project of this company,” he said.

But then in the very next breath, Peseta tells us everything about the project.

 “The runway is 1,000 meters long. It’s a small Airport similar to the Fagali’i Airport, but a longer runway,” he said. 

 “We anticipate starting the project with setting the boundaries next week Tuesday with the Ti’avea village council and as soon as that is done, we will get to the construction of the runway.”

 “The contract is for the runaway alone and so we are looking at hiring up to 30 people from the village for labor work, while we provide the operators for the machineries and equipment.”

Can you see how ironic this is? 

But then this is so the Samoa of today, isn’t it? Where there is a very fine line between right and wrong, a line that is crossed in many cases, including this one.

By the way, we are not anti-development. We agree that new airports are good for the people, when there is a need and when we can afford it. The problem from where we stand is that, we cannot see how this will work and how it could succeed. 

There are no guarantees that in a few years time it will become another Satitoa failure?

That said; now think of the less fortunate and the poor people of Samoa today. Theirs are stories of a perennial struggle to cope with the crippling cost of living and their inability to meet the demands of every Samoan life. Wouldn’t it be better if the Government focused on helping them instead of persisting with these failed projects?

What do you think? 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 23 September 2018, 12:00AM

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