P.M’s laughter, Samoa Airways and Government as “debt experts”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has been laughing a lot lately.
He’s been laughing at the opposition parties, he’s been scoffing at the Judges of the Civil and Criminal Courts, he’s been poking fun at the Samoa Law Society, the Churches, the former Head of State and he’s been having quite the ball at the expense of everyone and anyone who dares to question his authority.
Goodness he’s even laughed all the way to Canberra, Australia, in his response to comments from a Senator there about the state of Samoa’s democracy. Maybe it’s the merriment of the festive season; maybe it’s the strange weather patterns we’ve been experiencing lately in Samoa or it could be the bright lights of Apia?
Who knows? Or perhaps he’s taken advice from Helen Keller who is famous for coining the phrase: "Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties."
Helen Keller’s explanation makes sense because looking around Samoa today; there is very little to laugh about. We see difficulties and challenges everywhere. With the country’s economic prospects in dire straits largely driven by the collapse of the tourism industry, the unemployment figures are alarming and so is the knock on impact that is having on families. Businesses are struggling to cope especially the stifling conditions under which they have been ordered to operate under the S.O.E., despite the fact Samoa still does not have a positive case of the coronavirus.
The threat to democratic norms, especially the Judiciary and separation of powers is definitely not a laughing matter. Not the least when the eyes of the international community are on Samoa and what is happening in this nation today. It is not unreasonable to say we have got quite a lot of serious problems to deal with.
For the Government, the case of Samoa Airways and its woes cannot be ignored. A story titled "Samoa Airways’ financial distress revealed" published on 27 November 2020 highlighted just how bad things have become with the national carrier now up to $64 million in accumulated losses. The airline’s 2018-19 annual report underscored serious concerns about the airline’s future.
“The [airline’s] total liabilities exceeded its total assets by $11,258,751. The conditions indicate the existence of material uncertainty, which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern (company with the resources needed to continue operating),” the report reads.
But it gets worse. The company’s troubles are stated plainly in a summary of the businesses’ financial position, with the report saying: “The viability of the company and its ability to continue as a going concern is dependent upon the company being successful in its continuing efforts in growing its revenue based and/or accessing additional sources of capital and/or selling assets. As a result there is uncertainty whether the company will continue.”
Now we do not profess to be accountants or financial experts in reading these reports. Perhaps some accountants and experts in this area could enlighten us a bit more. But if the airline’s equity is negative $11.2 million, the Government should be scared. What it basically means is that the airline’s shareholders own nothing of the airline but instead owe that much to creditors, suppliers and whoever else.
The problem here for Samoa is that if the Government is Samoa Airways’ shareholder, it means that negative equity has got to be paid by you, me and all the silent submissive taxpayers of this country one way or another. It’s that simple.
Typically, while laughing this week, Tuilaepa just couldn’t help himself but turn to the Samoa Observer’s reporting on Samoa Airways finances, calling for it to stop.
“They always looked for anything negative to criticise. There is nothing to worry about! So what if the losses accumulate to $100 million, the [airline] is to cater for our people,” Tuilaepa said.
“Leave the debts to the Government who are experts in the handling of the debts and stop prying [into the finances] of the company.”
The Government being debt experts? Now that’s a new one. And how does one become a debt expert anyway?
Nearly 40 years in power in running this country and now Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his Government have added another title to their list of achievements, that of being debt experts. Incredible!
Speaking of experts, the only expert we should listen to because he was able to turn Polynesian Airlines fortunes into making consistent operating profits is Fauo’o Fatu Tielu. Two months ago, he cautioned: “This [Samoa Airways airline] will bankrupt the Samoan government; they cannot afford to fund Samoa Airways.”
Today, the writing is on the wall. With a declining economy due to a number of unavoidable and unforeseen circumstances and the woes in the tourism industry, this Government cannot afford another Polynesian Airlines episode.
When will they wake up and admit that this has been a mistake from the start?
The thing is when we laugh too much, at some point you know you’ve got to cry too. The worry is that when the chickens come home to roost, it’s not going to be just the politicians, the H.R.P.P. Government and Prime Minister Tuilaepa who would be in tears, it is this country that will pay the ultimate price and we all would be in a state of weeping.
Today being Sunday, let’s pray that we wouldn’t have to do that.
Have a restful day Samoa, God bless!