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School project to be locally funded: World Bank

The Cabinet has withdrawn World Bank-funding of the Vaigaga Primary School Project and will instead use finance provided by the Government and the community.

A World Bank Group spokesperson based in Suva, Fiji told the Samoa Observer that Samoa’s Cabinet made the decision on 28 October 2020 not to use World Bank project funds and would instead use finance courtesy of the Government and the community.

“On October 28, 2020 Samoa’s Cabinet made the decision that the government and the community would finance the rebuilding of the Vaigaga Primary school, instead of using World Bank project funds,” said the spokesperson, in an email response to questions sent by the Samoa Observer. 

“It is the prerogative of the Samoan Government to decide what specific investments will be financed using World Bank resources. We respect the decision, and will continue to work closely with the Government of Samoa on other climate resilient investments under this project.”

The spokesperson said World Bank-funding to rebuild the primary school under a climate change resilience program was not stopped, but the decision to discontinue the use of World Bank resources was made by the Cabinet.

“No funds have been ‘withheld’ as has been suggested. Based on findings of a World Bank- funded study completed in late 2019, Vaigaga Primary School was selected by the Government of Samoa to be rebuilt using financing from the the World Bank supported Pacific Resilience Program [P.R.E.P.] that was approved by the World Bank’s Board on June 19, 2015,” the spokesperson said.

“In 2018, aligned with usual World Bank procedures to meet country needs, there was a decision to include retrofitting or rebuilding of schools to climate resilient standards – this included the rebuilding of Vaigaga school under Samoa-P.R.E.P. project that fit in the objectives of the project.”

The primary school project has been at the centre of a war of words between the former Member of Parliament, Faumuina Leatinu’u Fong and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.

The former M.P. early this month accused the Government of “playing dirty politics” by withholding funding for the project. 

“All that we know is that the World Bank has approved funding for the school building so why have they stopped it now?” Faumuina said.

“The only reason is because I have not sided with what the Government wanted which is to build the Vaiusu wharf. The worst part is that these are World Bank funds that are meant to build the school, it’s the government’s money.”

The former M.P. insisted that they will not grovel to the Prime Minister for the project to be done.

“The church, village and committee is also prepared to build their own school, if the Government doesn’t want to build it,” he said.

“It’s not as if we relied on Government to give us the money to do things, everything that is inside our church compound at Vaigaga was funded through the sweat of the village and the church. 

“The school building is no different. Our village will not apologise to the Prime Minister because they haven’t done anything wrong.”

But Tuilaepa rubbished the claims by the former M.P. and added that the Government was worried about rising cost as an architectural drawing that was submitted cost $600,000 and would put the total project expenditure in the vicinity of $1.2 million.

“They brought a ridiculous proposal where it would cost $600,000 for the architectural drawing and $1.2million to build the school,” he said early this month on his weekly TV1 program.

“I recently opened a school building at Safotulafai, it only cost $280,000 and it was funded by Japan. You saw the school building and the hall, it was amazing.”

The Prime Minister said most primary school buildings cost between $300,000 and $500,000.

“And yet for this school building (at Vaigaga), before we even start, $600,000 would have already sunk. We could build three different school buildings with that money.

“And that’s why the Government is very careful and it is the reason why it reconsidered its plans that it will not leave it to overseas donors but for the Government to do it so we can adjust the costs so it doesn’t reach that much.

“The Government would provide the architectural drawing, just like all other schools.”

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