Government’s newest grand dream, secret whispers and the threat of bankruptcy

So there you have it. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has finally confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in Samoa. We’re talking about the front-page story titled “Proposed Vaiusu Wharf to cost $250million tala” published in your Samoa Observer on Monday.

While the plan for the Vaiusu Wharf had been in the pipeline for many years now, the answer to the question of how much it would cost and who would fund it had remained quite elusive. Whenever the issue was raised, the question of funding often pointed to Japan and China.

Today, perhaps after waiting several years for the “secret whisper,” Tuilaepa is absolutely certain.

“It is good to announce that China will build the wharf…” he said. “They concluded their first assessment and this year is the final assessment and then they will make a final decision. However, they are confident, they will fund the wharf for us.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa immediately went on the defensive about China’s motives amidst growing concerns about its influence in the Pacific.

“The talks about a wharf in Vaiusu to be funded by Chinese were initiated by the Samoa Government, not the Chinese," he said, adding that the wharf has been in the pipeline since the 1970s.

“Then Rod Keevey came to Samoa and conducted an extensive assessment and the results were comprehensive. His recommendation is that Samoa should invest in a wharf and it should be located in Vaiusu,” Tuilaepa explained.

But the cost of the project then was a factor.

“At the time in 1970, the administration then opted for the cheaper project and they invested in extending the wharf in Matautu,” he said. “The problem with that area, this is where all the debris from the Vaisigano river comes to, including piles of dirt. That is the reason why this area will always remain shallow.”

But that’s not all. Tuilaepa added that in the first six months of the year, the Matautu wharf is bombarded with strong swells, which has prevented ships and cruise liners from docking there for safety reasons.

The Government needs these big ships and bigger cruise liners to be able to dock in Samoa. Which is why they cannot wait anymore and must proceed with the Vaiusu project as soon as possible.

“If we had built the wharf in 1972, it would have cost maybe $10 million but now we’re looking at $100 million USD ($250 million tala).

“If we wait for the next 20 years surely, it would cost $5 billion tala. This means, we can’t delay this project any longer.”

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Tuilaepa also revisited an incident six years ago where a container ship was stuck on the reef for several days. Many of us would remember the story quite well.

“The Samoa Shipping Services will attest to the fact, it was miracle that boat slowly slid back into the ocean,” reminded Tuilaepa. "This was after the Samoa Shipping Services visited the Carmelites and asked them to pray for a miracle, as no one was able to provide any solutions on how to get the boat back into the water.”

So what does that incident, miracles and the Carmelites have to do with what the Government is planning at Vaiusu?

“Miracles don’t happen often,” Tuilaepa said. “If another incident occurs and we pray to God, he’ll probably say we gave you the brains to use and you have China that can assist.”

With that, it’s fair to say that this project is already a done deal. Despite strong opposition about the need for it over the years – including a wonderfully constructive piece from former Member of Parliament, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster in the Sunday Samoan – when it comes to Tuilaepa, nothing but God’s whisper can change his mind.

In this case, he’s already received the whisper to use China.

Pity those people living at Vaiusu though. While the Government has just gone ahead and announced their plans to the world, no one has bothered talking to them about it. Just ask Ulugia Aukuso Simo, one of the elders of the village.

“If the so called wharf will be built on our lands, at least have the courtesy of talking to us about it first, after all it is the right thing to do," he said.

“The Government should consult the Village Council first…. it would be good, to at least consult with the people that actually own the land before they continue with their plans.”

Well we couldn’t agree more.

But there is bigger concern – this one should alarm every Samoan.

“I want to share three important key issues with those who are willing to objectively listen to the concerns and reasons Samoa should not allow the proposed Vaiusu Wharf to be built,” Toeolesulusulu wrote.

“Firstly, such an unnecessary expensive undertaking can bankrupt the future economic independence of Samoa. The proposed cost of USD$300m is financially prohibitive for our small economy to sustain any future repayments. The wharf will not bring any substantial income to the country to offset the cost of its own development.”

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us.

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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