Govt. urged to help flood-hit businesses
The leader of the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi party, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt, has called on the Government to reconsider its decision not to offer immediate financial help to businesses devastated by flash flooding two weeks ago.
While the Government has estimated the cost of the damage to public infrastructure to be around $70million and climbing following a preliminary assessment, the cost of damage and losses to the private sector has yet to be finalised.
Asked last week if the Government would offer financial relief to private businesses affected, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance, Leasiosiofa’asisina Oscar Malielegaoi, said no.
This drew an impassionate plea from La’auli who urged the Government to reconsider its decision.
He said the flooding was not expected and it brought more pain on businesses that were already suffering as a result of COVID19 restrictions.
“I speak with respect,” he said on ET Live, “we’re in the season of Christmas giving and businesses should be given some help.”
La’auli was also asked to weigh the importance between the Government giving money to women’s committees as opposed to the business community affected but La’auli said he does not want to criticise the monies the Government has given to village committees.
“I accept with gratefulness the assistance for women’s committees,” he said.
“But I make a humble request to those controlling our (Government’s) finances to please consider some financial assistance to business affected by the flooding. They have suffered a great deal.”
Laauli said the businesses affected were not just shops and retailers.
“People with handicrafts had their businesses affected, there were food stall owners at Fugalei and Savalalo and they really need some help.”
Laauli added that the assistance has got to be genuine and allocated evenly instead of it being used as part of the election campaign.
Last week, the C.E.O. of Finance said the Government was offering assistance by way of fixing damaged infrastructure in the affected areas, the drainage system on the main Vaea Street in Apia, to enable the businesses to operate.
Leasiosio insisted that the Government has been generous with two stimulus packages for COVID-19. Such assistance was provided through the reduction of loan interest to all commercial banks to the tune of $3.9 million among other subsidies for electricity and water bills for the private sector.
Another benefit that the C.E.O. noted was the assistance recently distributed for people whose employment was affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
The head of the Ministry of Finance also emphasised that the Government has been helping the tourism industry, by allowing some facilities to be used as quarantine sites, with the Government spending more than $10 million on it.