Golden opportunities and a goose

By The Editorial Board 17 January 2023, 6:00AM

Aesop was a Greek writer, a fabulist who is said to have lived between 620 BC and 564 BC. He has been accredited as the writer of short stories with animal characters which carry a moral at the end.

One of the fables that he is accredited to have written is the ‘Goose that laid golden eggs’. The fable is about a man who had a goose that laid him a golden egg daily. This made the man very rich and prosperous. However, one day greed takes over and he decides to kill the goose so he can take all the golden eggs that were in the goose.

You can guess for yourself what the result of that was. No more goose and hence no more golden eggs.

You may be wondering what this fable has to do with the issues surrounding Samoa but it has. The analogy here is the golden opportunity provided to members of parliament to do something with the grants that are being given to each of the 51 constituencies to develop the villages and help their voters.

The SAT$1 million grant has been made available annually. This amounts to $51 million for all constituencies in a year and $265 million over the five years until the next election. That is direct Government injection into the grassroots. There are guidelines set with the grants on how to remain accountable and transparent.

There are endless possibilities on how the MPs can use this fund for its people. The money can be used to make roads within villages, make bridges, set up solar generation farms so villages have free electricity and sell the rest to the Electric Power Corporation, pay for school fees of children so all children can go to school for free removing the burden from their parents, use it to pay bus fares for elderly and school children, repair homes of those people who cannot afford, start a welfare scheme, establish community based pharmacies and clinics, set income generating projects and boost agriculture.

However it is sad to see that party politics and greed is standing in the way of a program that could actually help improve the lives of everyday Samoans. The constituency grants are a means of bypassing the bureaucratic red tapes, well most of it anyway, and providing a faster means of helping people.

Minister of Agriculture La’auli Leuatea Schmidt has explained why the second phase of the payout was not given to 10 constituencies and he points out the failure of many to abide by the accountability process set for checks and balances to see that the money is not abused and it does not end up in the pockets of people who have been always there to feed off the common people like parasites.

It is even sadder that the politicians or the MPs cannot look beyond party differences, set it aside and use this opportunity to help the people who have voted them in. There is so much that can be done. Children do not need to sell things on the streets and they can be sent to school. Not all families can afford the $300 per term per child fee for their children.

The inner roads in villages are being avoided because of their conditions. Heavy rain leads to localised flooding as drainage is not present. There are many things that can be pointed out. At the end of the day, the issue here is that the money is for the people and should be used for the betterment of the people.

How many times have we seen in the past that money intended for projects gets allegedly used up by people in authority and the intent of the project is never fulfilled.

How long do Samoans have to be grinded between the wheels of party differences and become victims because their chosen representative wants a chunk of the money intended for the people. It is time for Samoans to realise the potential the grants have to change their lives and call on their elected representatives to become transparent and accountable. In this case, there is no simpler way than following the guidelines set by the Steering Committee.

If the short sightedness of those who have the power to change things for their people is not improved, this will be another example of a project where millions of dollars have been flushed down the drain. Remember it is $265 million of taxpayers’ money.

Accountability and transparency remain the key attributes of a good government. Transparency serves to achieve accountability, which means that authorities can be held responsible for their actions. Without transparency and accountability, trust will be lacking between a government and those whom it governs.

Transparency is a fundamental element of abolishing corruption. Transparent governance is important to local governments and the communities they serve because corruption threatens good governance, leads to the misallocation of resources, harms public and private sector development, and distorts public policy.

The members of parliament also need to realise that they serve the people that voted for them and not the other way around.

By The Editorial Board 17 January 2023, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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