$5 million tourism cash intervention timely

By The Editorial Board 18 October 2021, 10:23PM

The cost of living is becoming a challenge for citizens in Samoa as the key sectors of the economy show little to no signs of recovery amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic.

On Monday we got a glimpse of the everyday challenges that families face when the Samoa Bureau of Statistics (S.B.S.) revealed in its Consumer Price Index September 2021 report that the cost of the household goods have increased.

According to the S.B.S. report (Yearly prices soar), published in the 18 October 2021 edition of the Samoa Observer, the cost of household goods increased by close to 7 per cent when compared to the same period last year.

Talk to ordinary families who frequent the main supermarkets in Apia and they will point out food prices that have risen in recent weeks and months.

In fact the price increases haven’t gone unnoticed, even before the C.P.I. report was released by the bureau, they will say. 

So thousands of people are doing it tough out there and those with families are now more vulnerable, due to the inability of a parent (or both parents) to put food on the table for their loved ones.

To give you some perspective on this unfortunate development: a United Nations survey in Samoa, whose results were released August last year, concluded that over two-thirds of Samoans lost income last year due to the pandemic.

The survey, which polled 286 Samoans, also found that almost half of households had at least one unemployed member while 71 per cent of the respondents were having trouble repaying their debts.

It has been 14 months since that survey and you wonder if the circumstances of those citizens who were surveyed for the UN poll ever improved or deteriorated?

Therefore, we welcome the recent announcement by the Samoa Tourism Authority C.E.O. Faamatuainu Lenatai Tuifua on hotels and beach fale operations being provided financial assistance by the Government.

Faamatuainu said a total of 154 hotels and beach fale operations will benefit from the financial assistance. 

Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa had indicated in a press conference last week that $5 million had been allocated from the budget to provide assistance for hotels and beach fale operations.

She also added that the S.T.A. management has been informed and directed to start working on formulating a funds disbursement program. 

A total of $5 million in funding assistance was earmarked in the 2021/2022 Fiscal Budget for that exercise and the management is awaiting the Cabinet’s approval of the eligibility and distribution criteria.

The cash injection into Samoa’s battered tourism sector is fitting as it is time for the new Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) administration to walk the talk, a month after the parliament passed the budget.

Not being privy to the eligibility criteria for a hotel or beach fale to qualify for funding, our own calculations points to each of the 154 tourism outlets receiving over $32,000 each out of the $5 million allocation.

And while the tourism grant from the Government may not seem like a lot, any form of cash injection into long-suffering business entities without strings attached, would and should be welcome.

The Government’s decision to also target beach fale operations and not just hotels is also a step in the right direction: you are putting funding into the hands of community-based tourism operators and not just the industry’s big boys, as some would have put it.

In these uncertain times with exports down and revenue generation stifled impacting the administration’s overall financial position, we appeal to the recipients of the tourism grant to use it wisely for the benefit of their operations.

The goal to reopen our borders might seem a long way off, but it wouldn't hurt beginning preparations now in consultation with our various stakeholders, including the tourism industry.

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Dear Tourist
By The Editorial Board 18 October 2021, 10:23PM
Samoa Observer

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