Opposition looks to remittances, not stimulus
Opposition parties say they are praying overseas Samoans continue to send money home amid major economic downturn and what they say was a disappointing economic relief package from the Government.
The Government last Tuesday passed an economic stimulus package worth $40 million. But independent analysis has suggested that the forecast drop in Samoa’s economy will be far greater.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer about his disappointment with the Government’s package, Tautua Samoa Party President, Afualo Dr. Luagalau Salele, said “remittances” from overseas are the only hope to inject money into the household's pockets to carry them through the next three months as tourism grinds to a halt.
"[We] need hard income but as we are seeing in the practice, it's not coming. It's just the forecast that they've put down, and these are just the sweet words that are coming into the budget, but people are struggling," he said.
"But my hope; my prayer is that our families and friends who live overseas continue to remit money because there is no other way out for us other than remittances.
"There is no way because we've looked at the Government but there is nothing."
Samoa National Democratic Party President, Vui Seigafolava Masinamua, said the call from the Tautua Party was reasonable but challenges from the coronavirus-led downturn were also felt by families overseas.
He said while the remittances are families' responsibilities many policies need to be reviewed regarding last Tuesday’s supplementary budget.
"I feel personally that they should stop deceiving the country, Samoa is not sleeping anymore, people can easily read that while they are saying it's a stimulus package,” Vui said.
“People are not getting money but rather [it is being] given to [help the recovery of] businesses, corporations and organisations."
Last year, remittances was Samoa’s largest form of foreign exchange earner with the 2017/18 financial year recording about $503.73 million tala in earnings.
New Zealand remains to be Samoa’s largest source of remittances followed by Australia.
Remittances from New Zealand and Australia under the seasonal worker's scheme is a major factor behind the country’s economic development.
Ioapo Samuelu, 25, from Manono Island is one of many Samoans overseas for seasonal work currently facing difficulties sending money home due to the pandemic.
“I have been having trouble sending money to my families in Samoa due to the policies the financial institutions are carrying out here ,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“It’s sad because my families in Samoa need money right now especially at times like these
“Even if I try to send some stuff there for food, it’s hard for me to do so especially now with the situations there but I don’t give my hopes up.”
Families also report finding it hard to receive transfers due to the lack of public transportation, and the high costs to travel by taxi from as far as Manono.