Public concerns spark foreign investment review
M.P.M.C. - Government will be reviewing the Foreign Investment Act 2000 as a direct result of public concerns that businesses regulated by the Act exclusively for Samoans, have been exploited by non-Samoan investors.
Among one of the amendments which will reviewed and amended is the Reserved and Restricted Lists which identifies the kind of business exclusively for Samoans as mandated by the Act.
And the businesses which are off-limits to non-Samoans include;
• Bus transport services for the general public
• Taxi transport services for the general public
• Rental vehicles
• Saw milling
• Traditional elei garment designing and printing
“But the list could be extended to include other businesses to be regulated exclusively for Samoans,” added the Minister of Commerce Industry and Labour, Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell.
“We are also looking at regulation owners wholesalers from the running retail store.”
Since the beginning of the year, Government has stopped issuing licenses to foreign investors as it reviews the provisions of the Act to come up with policies to address the many issues emerging.
And Lautafi says that the issue has been complicated by locals who are in partnership with Asian businesses but are not addressed by the current legislation.
He also said that many locals see opportunities and are quick to lease their buildings and land to Asian-owned businesses and these have impacted on locally-owned small stores around the country.
On his desk is an MCIL policy paper which contains the pros and cons including the rapid expansion of the Chinese outside urban Apia, by taking out long term leases on small shops in the outer villages.
But instead of bowing to the wishes of the local community he has to tread carefully too.
“We have to consider also the concerns by the Chinese investors about being discriminated against,” Lautafi cautioned.
“We don’t want to appear to be discriminating against foreign investors. After all we want foreign investors.”
An added restraint by the Minister is not to scare off other foreign investors, by any unreasonable reaction.
“The government wants to attract foreign investors to provide services and employment but at the same time we don’t want to develop an environment where local business or entrepreneurs just cannot compete.” Lautafi is determined to give a fair assessment of the complaints by the local business community so as not to be seen to favor any side over the other.
“What have to work out is a level playing field for everyone so we can all benefit. We need to consider that our local business community is not likely to fill in any leftover gap, if foreign investors pull out."
“I’m seriously looking into that issue. "