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The S.N.P.F. cash injection and the need for Government support

You only have to go to the building housing the Samoa National Provident Fund [S.N.P.F.] Headquarters this week to see the impact that the COVID-19 global pandemic is having on ordinary citizens.

Hundreds of S.N.P.F. members, some of them lucky enough to still have a job despite the current economic downturn, have been queuing outside the office since Tuesday, hoping to cash in on the 9.1 per cent dividend that the superannuation entity is paying.

The S.N.P.F. management announced in a press conference last Friday  that they will pay out $43.2 million in cash to their contributors, thanks to record dividends for the financial year ending 30 June 2020.

The need for the superannuation fund’s contributors to abide by the state of emergency [S.O.E.] orders and maintain social distancing went out the window, if the recent pictures taken and published by the Samoa Observer are any indication.

But can we blame them for disregarding the S.O.E. orders on social distancing when their own survival and that of their families are at stake? We know it is tough out there and families are hurting. 

Putting things in perspective, it is likely their hours-long wait at the S.N.P.F. Headquarters might only see each one of them get a few tala. But right now, they would tell you that any form of cash and generosity is better than nothing.

A mother of two children, Talesia Sale, told the Samoa Observer in the July 2, 2020 edition that she and her husband were desperate to cash in on the S.N.P.F. dividend payments due to their financial situation at home.

“We did not have a babysitter so we had to bring all the children to town," she said. "As a family we are struggling financially so hopefully this assistance will lessen another burden.I heard that we are not getting it all out at once, that is good since we need it for other priorities later in the year.”

A parent with two children, David Tameko, was up early Wednesday and joined the queue in front of the S.N.P.F. head office at around 7am.

“I am patiently waiting to get some form of cash so I can use it for our family needs," he said. "These are difficult times we are facing. My wife recently lost her job and so I am the only breadwinner so this is truly a big help for my family."

Hundreds of other individuals and their families would have their own stories too. It is beginning to sound all too familiar at this juncture of our history, as we grapple with the economic impact of COVID-19 and struggle to accept what some call the ‘new normal’.

Nevertheless, let us give credit where it is due. The decision by the Government – through the S.N.P.F. management – to pay 2 per cent of the dividend in cash will alleviate some of the financial challenges that contributors’ families currently face. 

And while it is only a short-term fix, the Government and the S.N.P.F. management should be commended for having the foresight in these challenging times to give contributors access to their dividend payments.

The large turnout at the S.N.P.F. Headquarters this week confirms the challenges that ordinary Samoans face on a daily basis. And we wonder if anything more can be done for those families who have parents who were both laid off due to the global pandemic?

The Samoa Observer has in recent months published stories on the work of not-for-profit organisations, who have been doing a tremendous job reaching out to families who are struggling to make ends meet. 

These not-for-profit organisations used their own community-based networks to identify worst-affected areas, and deliver basic items including food to families whose parents were laid off due to the impact of COVID-19. 

It is time for the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development [M.W.C.S.D.] to consider partnerships with the not-for-profit organisations, and working in close consultation with village councils would translate to the provision of essential monthly support for families who have lost the means to generate an income to support themselves and their children.

And what about budgetary support for programs run by the M.W.C.S.D. that could offer that kind of assistance to families but working through not-for-profit organisations or non-government organisations?

It is important that the Government leaves no stone unturned in its bid to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn and to provide essential support to ordinary citizens to ensure we all get through this together.

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