Superfluous staff and the private sector
With his observations and comments on the front page of today’s edition of the Samoa Observer, the independent Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Afoa Va’ai has undoubtedly found some fans.
He touches on two main points: the superfluous staff of Government ministries and the lack of focus of support and commitment for the private sector.
He says “the government structure is costing the country millions while its organizations struggle to pay dividends to maintain its growing developments”.
And while he singles out A.C.E.O.’s as examples of too many highly-paid managers doing too little work, he could also turn his attention in a cost cutting measure to the number of Cabinet Ministers (13) and Associate Ministers (13) that this small country of less than 200,000 people supports.
And I do mean supports.
We’re talking salaries, vehicles, expenses overseas and trips are all part of their packages without mentioning unofficial and often substantial perks and other payments.
As a comparison, neighbouring New Zealand with its population of four and a half million has just 20 Ministers 5 Ministers outside Cabinet.
But Olo’s right; from the public’s view, many government ministries are bloated, inefficient, often self-serving and costly.
He also makes the valid point that by creating extra positions and adding to the payroll does not always result in better and more efficient work outputs.
And in terms of Government structures, he could have also gone further and pointed to the money spent on grandiose, government buildings on Beach Road; money which could have been better spent on creating and supporting schemes to provide employment and generate revenue for individuals and the country.
Instead the buildings sit there as a monument to what our leaders consider to be our priorities and prudent decision making befitting us as recently graduated from the Least Developed Country status.
And while it was encouraging to hear the Prime Minister during his last days of holding the Finance portfolio in 2015, finally speaking of a need to cut spending, it was rather ironic.
Firstly, because this advice was after the fact and had already come from several reputable world financial organisations. Questioned about the advice at the time, he pooh poohed it all.
And secondly, because the Samoan public had repeatedly questioned profligate spending of our taxpayers’ money; much of which was carried out by members of his own political party - right under his nose.
Now with a newly-appointed Minister of Finance with a genuinely strong financial background, we can only hope that the days of unbridled spending will soon be a distant memory.
As an alternative to putting money into bigger and bigger Government offices and positions, Olo then goes on to urge the government to focus on where money is being generated from – the private sector.
Sadly, the private sector is an area of society government often takes for granted. Despite providing many services Government does not or cannot; producing goods and services; providing employment and skills and training and of course contributing to the economy.
And if at times their worth to Government appears to be measured by the size of their contributions to the Manu Samoa team, most of the time, they are too engrossed in their day to day work to make much of a fuss.
However Ad hoc holidays being introduced or extended at short notice is one irritating factor and an example of where government shows little concern for extra costs to the business community.
It seems that it is dead easy to make decisions about money when it is not your own.