I.M.F. wrapping up diagnostic tour of Samoa

The Ministry of Finance is optimistic Samoa’s economic outlook remains positive despite several recent setbacks as the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) wraps up its annual “diagnostic visit” next week.

The Ministry’s Chief Executive Officer, Leasiosiofa'asisina Oscar Malielegaoi, said the consultation, known as an Article IV visit, is the best opportunity to have the country’s economy independently reviewed and to receive sound advice.

In its 2019 report on Samoa, the I.M.F. said it expected growth to rebound after a five year low, and that debt distress risk remains high.

This year, Leasiosio said he imagines the 2019 measles epidemic and now novel coronavirus (C.O.V.I.D.-19) will have robbed Samoa of any chance of reporting high growth. 

“We were anticipating very high growth, especially after hosting the Pacific Games, and the Teuila Festival and with Samoa Airways bringing in more tourists and V.F.R. (visiting friends and relatives) so we were very optimistic,” he said. 

“Unfortunately we had to revise [those expectations] but it’s still positive growth.”

Leasiosio said his biggest concern for the nation’s wealth is the advent of C.O.V.I.D.-19 and how long it may “drag on” for.

“We are depending on our international partners to contain the virus and hopefully they will. But if things get out of control then we cannot foresee what will happen,” he said.

“We are in a global economy. What happens in China or Europe will definitely impact on us.” 

And while the global epidemic rages on outside of Samoa’s control, national developments the Government has chosen to invest in should prove to be in the economy’s favour, Leasiosio believes. 

He said the hosting of international meetings continues to be a sound investment such as the upcoming Committee on the Rights of the Child and, later in the year, the signing of the Post-Cotonou Agreement.

More “pipeline” plans such as the City Lookout on Mount Vaea, or the recent closure of Fagalii Airport need to be factored into economic predictions too, he added. 

While the I.M.F. mission is ongoing until Tuesday, Leasiosio would not be drawn on the Fund’s preliminary findings. But he said it has proven helpful to have missions every year rather than once every two or three years as other countries do. 

“We value having these annual visits. We want people to tell us from an independent perspective – how are we doing, what can we do better, how can we get there?,” he said. 

“It’s more of a diagnostic mission. I am anticipating some very good news, and some very good advice on what we can do better.”

Leasiosio said when the I.M.F. publishes its reports online after their missions, it makes the state of Samoa’s economy transparent for both the private and public sector. 

“They will provide sound advice, and a different perspective,” he said. 

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