Multi-million tala white elephants, doctors' salaries, mind-boggling stuff

Let’s see. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the ruling Human Rights Protection Party administration is already moving to spend a cool $14 million tala on their newest adventure.

Called the Ti’avea Airport, $10 million has apparently been earmarked for the construction of the runway and the facilities with a further $4 million mooted for land compensation.

That’s a lot of money folks. But like other white elephants we’ve seen in the past, this one carries the same promises. We’re referring to the feel good talk about the untold windfall in tourism revenues from American Samoa, improving exports to Pago, convenience for the travelling public and the usual stuff.

Which is hogwash as far as we can see. We say this because judging from the Government’s history of extravagant blunders in the past, the mind simply refuses to accept what we are seeing. It’s going to be deja vu all over again.

It’s ironic that Tiavea is not far from Satitoa. You see, out there at Satitoa right now, this same Government administration wasted a whopping $20 million tala on a wharf with similar promises — that it would fetch millions in revenue from trade and tourism — from American Samoa.

What is happening now? Well the truth is out there for all to see. All you need to do is drive out there to Satitoa to find that the wharf is a shameful waste of hard-earned taxpayers monies, which they literally sunk to the bottom of the ocean. And here we are today with the Government, all ready to pump more millions into yet another project we don’t need.

What’s wrong with the airport at Fagali’i anyway? Besides, they have just opened up a multi-million-tala facility at Faleolo International Airport, which is hardly used. On a good day, they welcome three international flights, and here is the Government building another unnecessary airport.

From what we see, there are striking similarities between the Satitoa wharf and the airport being currently built at Ti’avea. Like the Satitoa wharf, the Government says the Tiavea airport is intended to make travel between the two Samoas, quicker and cheaper. How that is possible is anyone’s guess. Who wants to pay $100 tala or more in taxi fares to travel from Apia to Tiavea to catch a flight to Pago?

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You see, when certain public officials in positions of power opt to satisfy their whims at the public’s expense, the rest suffer, especially the poorest of the poor.

Now isn’t it sad? The mind quickly races back to the front page of the Sunday Samoan where a story titled “Doctors strike action possible" was published.

According to the Chairman of the Samoa Medical Council, Motuopua’a Dr. Aisoli Va'ai, a doctor’s strike action could be the last resort in a bid to give doctors working at the national hospital a salary increase.

To be double sure folks, the doctors are not asking for a lot.

“We’re not asking for an additional $10,000 pay rise for doctors, that is not the intention, rather just a little raise and recognition,” Motuopua’a said.

“The doctors and the nurses are the backbone of the health care work with the assistance of the support services. And even the on-call doctors take their time to return to the hospital when they’re called in, they are overworked. They are overworked and tired and the pay is low. When you have that three as a combination, then you have disaster. When you are overworked, underpaid, and you’re tired, then you make mistakes.”

As a way forward, Motuopua’a recommended an additional $1,000 to a doctor’s starting salary, which he said would go a long way for the local doctors.

That surely is not a lot, but it would go a long way to help alleviate the chronic shortage of doctors, which is a problem this country has been struggling with for far too long.

Now think of $20 million wasted on the Satitoa Wharf. Imagine if that money was used to fix the doctors situation for instance? And now think of the $14 million that is being spent on another airport we don’t need. These decisions are unforgivable, mind-boggling stuff really.

The truth is quite simple. Isn’t it downright cruel that there are children basically living on the streets, some families wallowing in poverty in this country, and yet the Government continues to dump millions of tala into projects that hold little promise of creating wealth and improving the wellbeing of our people at all? The question is, what exactly is the real reason for the Ti’avea Airport?

Have a great Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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