Bridge a concept for now: M.O.F. chief

A much discussed inter-island bridge linking Upolu and Savai’i remains only a concept for now, the Chief Executive Officer of Ministry of Finance, Leasiosio Oscar Malielegaoi, has stressed. 

Leasiosio said that the bridge, canvassed in Parliament last week, is a reflection of the Government's vision for the future, rather than concrete policy. 

"If we don't have a vision and dream, then we will just be stagnant," he said. 

"Every project Samoa has ever had started out as a thought, turned into a concept before approaching an interested donor, he said."

Last month, 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. 

The Bank, the Minister said, appeared to have dropped its opposition to the project and might consider funding it. 

But last week a spokesman for the Bank said it had "no plans to support" the massive infrastructure project. 

Leasiosio brought up the proposed Vaiusu Wharf as an example of long-term development vision. 

"It is a concept from the 1970s. And from then, up to now, the project is had just started to come around but it is from a long time ago," he said.

"Just like [the inter-island bridge], they are just thoughts but [there is] no project yet."

This is why a feasibility study is not something to be discussed at this time, Leasiosio said.

"We just presented a plan to the World Bank and that's it," he said. 

He said the last time discussions took place between Government and World Bank was last October.

The World Bank's focus on transport in Samoa was currently on improving the capacity of the country's road network to withstand the effects of climate change, the spokesman said.   

The Ministry chief said this was correct and reflected a list of priority projects submitted by Samoa to the Bank. 

One of projects include refurbishing the road network and retention of slopes that are vulnerable to land slides during heavy rainfall on the East Coast road (From Vailele to Aleipata)

Ala Fa'alava road (from Aleisa to Leulumoega)  is another project in the list, which is an alternative route to the west coast road.

"This will be done soon, the Bank has responded, saying it will not be long until we implement," he said.

Another approved project from the World Bank includes the Cross Island road coming from Vailima, Leasiosio added.

Alaoa dam is another major project the Government is ready to roll out as finances are being secured.

"Although the project has been rolled out, the project financing has not been secured 100 per cent," he said.

"And we are continuing to advertise for consultation works and those projects are in a very advanced stage."

He contrasted the progress of these projects to the island-connecting bridge which he re-emphasised remained a "concept". 

Leasiosio said many more discussions regarding the inter-island bridge are yet to come but it will some years before it evolves into concrete planning. 

He said that there are many options available to make the massive infrastructure project bankable, should the concept evolve into a project, such as a public-private partnership agreement that would include a toll road. 

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