'No plans' for inter-island bridge: World Bank

The World Bank says it does not currently have any plans to support a proposal for a bridge connecting Samoa's islands recently raised in Parliament. 

Last week, the Minister for Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, said that the Government was considering approaching the World Bank to fund a bridge project connecting Upolu, Manono, Apolima and Savai’i via a major bridge project. 

“It is worth mentioning that it is about time the Government considered seeking assistance from the World Bank to construct a bridge from Upolu [to] Manono [and] Apolima and Salafai," he said.  

“This project was considered four years ago, but at that time they [World Bank] were not interested in funding the proposed bridge.

"That has changed and [at] our meeting last year, with the World Bank and it appeared there is a chance they can fund this huge project."

But when asked about the bridge project a spokesman for the Bank said that its focus on transport in Samoa was currently on improving the capacity of the country's road network to withstand the effects of climate change. 

"There are no current plans to support road connections between Samoa’s islands [but] we are in constant discussions with the Government to understand its longer term aspirations," the spokesman said. 

“The World Bank’s support to Samoa is currently focused on [Information and Communication Technology], agriculture, aviation, climate resilience, disaster response and health. 

"In the transport sector, we are also working to improve the climate resilience of a number of Samoa’s coastal roads and other vital transport infrastructure that Samoans use every day."

Transport initiatives sponsored by the Bank include roadworks from Vaitele to Faleolo funded by a US$35.75 million (T$95.09m) grant to improve the climate resilience of Samoa’s road network and facilitate a rapid response in the event of a natural disaster in 2018.

During Parliamentary proceedings last week, Sili said that education and healthcare remain the Government's chief priorities. 

The Minister also added that the World Bank had taken into account Samoa's long-term policy planning document, the "2040 Strategy".

He also noted that three months ago the World Bank announced the donation of $34 million to manage the measles epidemic and improve the health system. 

Of that amount, a grant of $9.3 million will go towards the measles epidemic response, while a further $24.7 has been dedicated to a programme strengthening the health sector and disease prevention efforts over the next five years.

Questions were sent to the C.E.O. of the Ministry of Finance and Sili about the timing and nature of their discussions with the World Bank and whether they had plans to conduct a a feasibility study on the project.

The Ministry's chief, Oscar Thomas Malielegaoi, said he was unable to respond until next week while no response was received from the Minister. 

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