Government-funded infrastructure for show: Tautua

The leader of an opposition party says the Government’s track record on development projects is littered with eyecatching investment budgets but questionable long-term usefulness. 

Tautua Samoa’s leader, Luagalau Dr. Afualo Salele says the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) Government’s record of development projects is marred by poorly planned investments. 

Dr. Afualo cites the investment in the Faleolo International Airport as a prime example after research found it would be left unusable due to weather phenomena, requiring the use of a backup facility at Ti’avea.

“A recent study by the Japanese firm found the $147 million tala Faleolo International Airport will be left unusable due to waves caused by cyclones. Is this an achievement?,” he said.

“The Government is moving to expand the Ti’avea Airport as a second airport, due to these findings. 

“How can this be an achievement when the current administration is spending more of the taxpayers monies on another airport?”

Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, outlined some of the Government’s key achievements during this term of Government in his speech during the first reading of the $965 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

He said that Samoa has long been considered one of the most advanced economies within the Pacific in terms of development and strategic direction.

“Refurbishment and reconstruction of the Faleolo International Airport to support international travel,” Minister Sili said. 

But Luagalau queried the allocation when the Ti’avea Airport was set to become Samoa’s alternative international airport. 

“This comes after a study found that Faleolo International Airport will be left unusable due to waves caused by cyclones,” he said.

“The question is how long has the Government known about this study and yet continued to pour taxpayers money into the multimillion projects.”

Attempts by the Samoa Observer to get a copy of the study into the impact of extreme weather conditions on the Faleolo International Airport have been unsuccessful. 

The Government had previously said Ti’avea Airport would be exclusively used in case of emergency landings. 

Luagalau noted the Faleolo International Airport is funded on a loan from China which cost hundreds of millions. 

According to the Public Accounts for Financial Year 2019-2020 the current debt to China for the Airport alone is just under $129 million.

“And we have already spent more than $15 million on the Ti’avea Airport. This is [not] a political gain in my view,” he said. 

In April, the Samoa Airport Authority Chief Executive Officer, Silimana’i Ueta Solomona, told the Samoa Observer about the extension at Tiavea. 

“It came about after initial findings of a report being prepared by a research team from Japan stated an elevated risk of Faleolo being inundated from wave action during cyclones due to its proximity to the sea,” Silimana’i said.

“Government believes that whilst works are ongoing at Ti’avea, it is the ideal time that the overall airport planning considers an extension to ensure that an alternate is available for continuity of air operations.” 

Luagalau alleges the Government deliberately ignored the findings of the Japanese firm. 

“They went ahead with the project knowing very well the risk,” he said.

“We all know the environmental impact on the low lying areas and by 2050, the sea level will rise over a metre and the Faleolo Airport will be greatly impacted.”  

According to Luagalau, if the Government’s intention was genuine, they would have invested the $146 million into the International Airport into another area that could deliver long-term benefit and was not threatened by the changing climate. 

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