Million-tala buildings, hardship and those feel good election speeches in Parliament

Pictures don’t lie. They tell the truth about life in Samoa or anywhere else for that matter. In a world where there are thousands of pictures taken every minute especially in the age of social media, these pictures have a way of reflecting the truth about our lives and what we are dealing with.

Now think of progressive Apia for instance. Think of pictures of all those wonderful high-rise buildings, which have transformed the way our once sleepy capital used to look.

Think of all the pictures of the multi-million construction projects and other monuments the Government has spent our hard-earned taxpayer monies and aid on. Look at the Faleolo International Airport for instance, isn’t that a sight to behold? Even the Tanumalala Prison is a mighty project, all twenty million tala plus of it. As if that’s not impressive enough, take a drive up to Tuanaimato where the landscape is lined by those unused sports facilities costing millions and millions of tala. Isn’t that a mighty waste of money?

Why are we talking about those buildings?

We’re thinking about these pictures and these millions because this week at the Maota Fono at Tiafau, Members of Parliament are gathering to discuss the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti’s $966 million budget.

The money is intended to cover the cost of running Samoa over the next 12 months. While the budget has been split among the different Ministries and government bodies, the ultimate goal is to benefit ordinary Samoans regardless of where they live.

If you follow the proceedings regularly, it’s fair to say that the debate so far has been very civil. Apart from the odd heated exchange here and there between Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the usual suspects in the form of Olo Fiti Vaai and now Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, you would find there is hardly anything new in these budget debates.

And with the election less than a year away, you can almost predict that they’re going to talk about water, electricity, roads, housing, education and health care. And they do.

Which is ironic when you think about all these big buildings and multi-million-tala projects that the Government has been gloating about. Isn’t it heartbreaking that while they are carrying on as if they are the saviour of Samoa and yet so many people are struggling to get by everyday? We are talking about some of the poorest people in this nation whose needs are being ignored and are not met.

You’d be surprised about what many of them are lacking, in some cases, in places as close to Apia Fugalei, Taufusi and even up the hill at Palisi and Vailima. We’re talking about water, roads and very basic care.  Yes some people at Taufusi and Fugalei can’t even afford to see a doctor. Ask all those medical missions who keep going to the area because there is a great need.

While the Government will have you believe that we have come so far as a country and that we have so much to be proud of in terms of developments, the reality is out there for all to see.

Look around you today; we’ve never had this many beggars on the streets of Samoa. Children and adult vendors are in your face everyday regardless of where you are. Elsewhere, hardship and growing poverty among some people in this country should worry us all. The images don’t lie; those pictures are a reflection of the daily struggles and hardships many families face.

And you don’t need to look further. Every Sunday in the Village Voice Section of the Samoa Observer, pictures and stories of families desperate for help are published. Many of these stories are about their living conditions. They don’t have water, they cannot afford electricity and many of them cannot send their children to school because they don’t have money.

But there is another problem.

We have seen cases where there are far too many children that parents are struggling to care for them. Some of those children appear underfed and some are malnourished, it’s so sad. The question is, whose responsibility is to teach those parents to stop having children if they cannot afford them? How do we begin to educate our people about proper planning when it comes to children so they can afford to raise them and give them all the opportunities in the world they deserve?

These are real issues. We are talking about the reality on the ground everyday in Samoa. And yet when we listen to these Parliamentarians and their feel good speeches, nobody seems to want to know about these people. It sounds like it’s a case of every man for himself.

Which is sad, isn’t it?

Today let us remind our leaders, especially Members of Parliament, that the gap between the rich and the poor in Samoa has become considerably wider. While there is a lot of wealth in this country, most of it is concentrated in the hands of a very few while the rest have been left to fend for themselves.

What is Parliament doing about this? What is the Government doing about this? Or are they only interested in making those feel good speeches geared towards re-election next year?

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!











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