Aid galore Samoa, what a wonderful world!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 20 May 2018, 12:00AM

Two weeks ago, the Government officially opened a new and improved Faleolo International Airport in grand style. 

The $147 million tala facility is fully funded by China – one of many projects in Samoa that are only made possible by China’s endless streams of monies.

At the official opening, Prime Minister Tuilaepa was naturally a proud man. And why not? He said facility would take Samoa a step further to becoming the aviation hub of the Pacific. 

It’s a lofty goal; one Fiji’s brand new airport in Nadi might have something to say about it. Still, in Tuilaepa’s mind, Samoa is moving up the ladder.

 “As envisioned by Government, these new terminal buildings will assist tourism growth in our country, in addition to boosting economic development through air transport facilitation and trade,” he said. 

We couldn’t agree more. These facilities are critical to the development of Samoa. But does it need to cost $147 million? That’s the big question.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Tuilaepa had a warning for airport users. Said he: “For those who will be using these new airport buildings, its longevity can only be assured through appropriate usage, care and maintenance.” 

“It is your Government’s hope that this upgrade project will meet our country’s airport needs for the next 50 years.”

Again, we couldn’t agree more. For such an expensive facility, we need to treat it with absolute care. But 50 years? Let’s hope so. Looking at the rapid rate with which some of the Chinese funded projects in Apia are deteriorating, Prime Minister Tuilaepa is sure optimistic.

But it’s aid money. 

And today, it is fair to say there is so much of it’s about the only word we can think of at the moment. Whether it’s in education, sports, environment, health, you name it, there is aid everywhere.

Now fast forward to this week, China has moved to provide Samoa with some doctors, which should at least alleviate the chronic shortage of doctors at the local hospitals.

Through an agreement called the Chinese Medical Team (C.M.T.) Agreement signed yesterday, Chinese doctors will be brought in to work at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital – and other places in Samoa where they are needed.

The agreement was signed by Minister for Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Talalelei Tuitama and China’s Ambassador to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng.

Tuitama hailed the agreement as a step in the right direction. He also quashed fears about language barriers assuring the Government would ensure the issue is addressed through the use of translators.

 “This is a significant contribution provided by the Government of China to complement the efforts by the Government of Samoa to address the shortage of medical doctors in a number of specialisations, increase opportunities for capacity building and to equip the hospitals for services delivery throughout the country,” Tuitama said. 

“China continues to make significant contributions to developments in the health sector. The construction of the new hospital, office premises and facilities reflects China’s responsiveness to address Samoa’s needs for a healthy population.”

Tuitama couldn’t have said it better. Which brings us to the point; what will Samoa ever do without China? And what will we do without aid for that matter? Imagine the day when all this aid dries up? What will our leaders do? 

But it’s not just China we are benefitting from. Aid seems to be coming from everywhere. Now look at the front page of the paper you are reading.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa is returning from Japan with more aid. He is not just coming back as the latest recipient of the “Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.” He is also bringing back a pledge of $4.6million by Japan. 

Now isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t it fascinating how we just go one from one country to another with an open palm, begging?

To Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration’s credit, they must be doing something right since Samoa appears to be darling of all these donor countries.

But what does it mean for our people in the long run? Where do they stand when these so called generous donors come back calling for a return on the favour? Keep in mind there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Today, let’s remember the troubles of the Maldives whose massive debts are threatening to force the country to cede territory to China.

 “We can’t pay the $1.5 to 2 billion debt to China,” warned former President Mohamed Nasheed. As of January, obligations to China accounted for “nearly 80%” of the Maldives’ foreign debt, according to Nasheed. Much of the money went into infrastructure, including roads, bridges and airports. 

But these are “vanity projects,” according to Nasheed: “roads going to nowhere, airports that [will sit] empty.” All the while, the Maldives’ debts are accruing interest at high rates, Nasheed said.

The rest of the story is pretty bleak but you get the picture.

There will be people of course who would ask what do the Maldives and Samoa have in common? And what does this have to do with us?

Well there are a lot of similarities. 

The biggest denominator is the fact we are a group of islands just like the Maldives and our debt to foreign rulers – including China – is increasing by the day. 

And isn’t it interesting that the Maldives debt has been racked up building infrastructure, including roads, bridges and airports. Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar to what is happening in Samoa today?

Our debt, status of the economy, alienation of customary land, political decisions and fear of a new type of colonialism that is coming through chequebook diplomacy. We see it so often, some times on a daily basis. 

They are all related since it concerns the future of this nation and our people – including the unborn.

The question is; are we paying attention? Do we care? 

But then with all that wonderful aid, who has time to worry? 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 20 May 2018, 12:00AM

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