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H.R.P.P’s $200,000 sacrifice commendable

Leaders lead by example. And when the going gets tough, good leadership not only makes quality decisions for their followers, they also sacrifice for the greater good of the people they lead.

The decision by the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) to forego $200,000, they are entitled to under the Legislative Assembly’s’ Fiscal Year Budget 2020-2021, is an example of such leadership. We commend Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the caucus and his administration for such a quality decision.

On Sunday, a story titled “Ruling party gets $200,000 from Legislative Assembly” was published about the H.R.P.P’s entitlement on the front page.  The story said the annual funding comes from the $6.8 million allocated for the Legislative Assembly.

Before the story was printed, questions were sent to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, on whether such an allocation was appropriate while the country is suffering as a result of hardship imposed by the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. He did not respond.

Two days later on Tuesday evening, the Government’s Press Secretariat responded with a press release titled “H.R.P.P. returns $200,000 allocation to Government.” We are printing their response on the front page of the newspaper you are reading.

According to the statement, the H.R.P.P. had decided to forego the entitlement and allow it to be “reabsorbed in the budget to assist the country in its collective response to the COVID 19.”

 “Being very mindful of government’s tireless efforts to keep Samoa COVID free, the H.R.P.P. caucus at a meeting a week after the 2020-2021 Budget was approved, unanimously agreed to keep the allocation in the budget to assist our national efforts to safeguard Samoa from the virus,” the statement said.

The decision was apparently made by the H.R.P.P. approved by Cabinet on 29 July 2020.

“The decision to reprioritize the said allocation is a Cabinet directive and this has been executed accordingly,” the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo, said.

Well that’s wonderful news, isn’t it? We’d only wish they had told the public a month ago when the decision was made. Who wouldn’t have been proud to tell the world? And why would the H.R.P.P. be so modest about such a generous donation reflecting quality leadership on their part?

We say this because since the Covid19 State of Emergency (S.O.E.) lockdown was imposed some six months ago, critics of the Government have been asking the question of what Government officials were prepared to sacrifice in their salaries and benefits to share the load with the rest of the country.

We haven’t been told officially if anything has come as part of that.

This is why the decision by the H.R.P.P. government, to forego money that they have every right to under the law, is commendable. Since former Prime Minister, the late Tofilau Eti Alesana put the policy in place some 30 years ago; this is the first time we’ve been told of the ruling party sacrificing the fund for the greater good.

The decision couldn’t have come at a better time. It is no secret that these are challenging times for Samoa as the coronavirus global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on employment prospects, trade opportunities, especially on the tourism industry in Samoa which has seen hundreds of workers jobless and without income to feed their families.

The numbers and statistics are truly frightening. Last month, United Nations (U.N.) research found that more than two-thirds of Samoans have reported losing income and having trouble repaying debts. The study found that not only had 68 per cent of Samoans lost income due to the crisis, but a significant number were even being forced to eat less and struggling to pay their debts.

 “Close to half of respondents say that the decline of domestic and international travel has led to a reduction in earnings. Twenty-three per cent said their employer has had to close a business, and 15 per cent have had their job terminated,” the study found.

 “The other most common reasons cited for a fall in income included the interruption of social activities and the unavailability of stock for market vendors and shops. Some respondents said they quit their jobs because their employer changed employment conditions due to the crisis.”

From where we stand today, while we remain optimistic and hopeful, we just cannot see the end of the tunnel with regards to how long the coronavirus would be around. We are grateful that Samoa remains one of the few countries in the world that still has not had a positive case. But the absence of the virus in Samoa has not stopped the pandemic from hitting our people where it hurts the most, in their pockets.

It is why we believe every sacrifice made to help cushion the impact of the pandemic on our people, including the most vulnerable and poorest, should be acknowledged and appreciated. The H.R.P.P’s gesture with the $200,000 is one such sacrifice. Every sene counts.

Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!

 

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