M.P. questions S.N.P.F granting loans to foreigners

Member of Parliament for Palauli West, Afoa Faleulu Mauli, has questioned the Samoa National Provident Fund's (S.N.P.F.) decision to fund business projects spearheaded by foreign investors.

Afoa has also queried the Fund's approval of a $5.7 million loan for an "Asian" businessman, after the Government had awarded him the contract to take over the Vaitele Market and turn it into shop.

Speaking during the budget debate, Afoa said it seems that the S.N.P.F. prioritises foreign business people over Samoans and local business who could use such funds.

“There was a $5.7 million S.N.P.F. loan given to the Asian investor which afforded [the businessman] to purchase more businesses yet the Samoans are not receiving this type of benefit," Afoa said.   

“I don’t understand the logic in this. They are investors from overseas and they are supposed to bring their own money to invest in our country. If this continues, in the next ten years. only overseas investors will remain in business.”

But the Minister of S.N.P.F., Sili Epa Tuioti, rejected the claim.

“This is wrong," he said. "There is a vetting process in place when an application is submitted [for a loan]. The consideration takes into account the [company’s] ability to repay the loan."

Sili, who is also the Minister of Finance, said Afoa's claim that S.N.P.F. prioritises foreign investors over local businesses is wrong.

“I want to make it clear one more time, these allegations are wrong and unfounded,” Sili said.

He said all companies are welcome to seek financial assistance from S.N.P.F. but there is a stringent process they are subjected to. This ensures the applicant is able to make the repayments.

The Minister also objected to Afoa singling out "Asian" investors.

“While you label them as Asians, most of them are citizens of this country and they are eligible to apply for loans."

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, also intervened.

He said Afoa sits in the Parliamentary Committee and had access to the S.N.P.F. reports which outlines how much funds are loaned to the business community, including farmers. 

"For a Committee member to make reckless comments that the Samoans are not given loans, these are unfounded allegations," Tuilaepa said. 

"Please read your reports and speak the truth; but don’t make reckless remarks as such.

“If you had requested a loan, go back to the S.N.P.F. and consider as to why [the application was denied]. No financial institution will give loans without looking at the credit history. 

“At the same time, I want to remind you the S.N.P.F. monies belong to the contributors. It is the duty of the S.N.P.F. to make sure they invest in a company that will in turn give back profits for the [dividend] payouts to contributors."

But the Palauli West M.P. was adamant that his comments were based on facts.

When he tried to respond to Tuilaepa, the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, stopped him.

“When I tell you to sit down, you follow it," Leaupepe said. 

"We must act in accordance with common courtesy. I am tempted to use the authority given to me under standing orders but I don’t want to remove anyone from our sessions under my tenure."

In 2017, documents obtained by the Samoa Observer, showed that as of 6th February 2017, Tu’itu’ioaiga Teeking Weng’s company, Super Wing Samoa Limited, owed S.N.P.F. $5.841,977.99.  

The account at the S.N.P.F. was under the name “Weije Weng” who is also the owner of Coin Save, among other businesses.

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