Cost of living should be a Government priority

By The Editorial Board 11 August 2022, 6:00AM

The record price of fuel is something we should all be concerned about. We say this for the simple reason that the rising fuel costs will inevitably lead to a more expensive cost of living, as if that is not the case already. 

For the first time in this country’s history, diesel and petrol prices are threatening the $5 per litre mark. What’s even more alarming is the question of whether we are now staring down a path where the trend could eventually lead to $10 per litre, if not more. 

We hope this will not be the case but then who knows? We live in such unpredictable times that anything could happen. This is why we say the most recent development in fuel prices should alarm us all. We need to start looking at ways where we can help ourselves. 

For the Government of the day, they have a responsibility to make this issue a priority. They cannot ignore it and pretend that it is not happening. The facts as they stand only point to more suffering and pain if this trend continues. 

Now we accept there are factors beyond the Government’s control such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which have invariably been blamed for the historical prices. We also accept that the fuel price crisis is not confined to Samoa, it is a global problem. That is understandable. 

However, aside from external factors beyond the Government’s control, what about the internal factors? What about the things that our Government can control? What is Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and her Government doing to cushion the blows from the expensive fuel prices on ordinary citizens of this nation? 

Have they even started the conversation on what people can do and where they can play a part in helping? If they have, they certainly haven’t told the public anything yet, unless we are not aware of it of course. 

But the H.R.P.P. Leader and the suspended Lepa M.P. Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, is certainly thinking out loud. The Opposition leader said the Government should "listen to the cry" of the people and do something the impact of the cost of fuel on everyday living. And where does Tuilaepa think the money to help the people could come from?

“[They should just] use the fund allocated for that $1 million tala they promised to the people to help our people during these difficult times and forget about that snotty project,” Tuilaepa proposed.  "I know they promised to give out $1 million tala to each of the constituencies in the country…The people have done their part by voting for them and it's time they do their part by honoring what they promised to the people of Samoa and give out that money to help the people who are struggling.”

The former Prime Minister claimed Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) had promised that “each of the 51 constituencies will get $5 million tala which is $1 million tala per constituency for five years.”

The Government will obviously disagree with Tuilaepa’s spin on things. And as we’ve cautioned before, we must take Tuilaepa’s points with a grain of salt. His comments are tainted by political undertones, which must be viewed and judged purely as that. 

As an Opposition party, however, the H.R.P.P. is doing exactly what they are expected to do in that they pounce on an opportunity to score political points. Still, the issue here is far more important than some political point scoring exercise. 

The cost of living, fueled by petrol prices, is a real worry and the Government must be seen to be leading the conversation in terms of how people can adapt, adjust and help themselves in these trying times. 

If the cost of fuel, and ultimately the cost of living are increasing, how are people able to keep up? Let’s not forget that we live in a country where the minimum wage remains $2.60 per hour. Most families have an average of at least 10 people. 

How is it possible for these families to survive on such an income given the inflation and these rising costs? The cheapest meat in Samoa today is chicken and the cost is nearly $100 for a box compared to not so long ago when it was just over $40? 

With so many cars in Samoa, what is being done to encourage the population to park at home and utilise public transport? Speaking of public transport, are there any moves to make it more attractive so the public would consider it an option? 

What about some cost cutting tips for families to help them with electricity, water, interne, food and the like? Are there any incentives being offered to encourage Samoans to return to the land to grow and cultivate their own food? We are talking about plantations, vegetable gardens, pig sties, free range chicken farming and all those ideas? 

These are the conversations we need to have. They are real, very relevant and it is what matters to people today, regardless of status, religion or walk of life. In dealing with fuel costs and ultimately the cost of living, it is a battle for survival. And everyone is affected. The Government must drive these conversations and make this their absolute priority. 

What do you think? Have a great Thursday, God bless!

By The Editorial Board 11 August 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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