S.N.P.F. silent on lending queries
The Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.) remains silent on questions raised about its decision to lend “millions” of the Fund’s money to foreign-owned companies doing business in Samoa.
The Chief Executive Officer, Faumuina Esther Poutoa, has yet to respond to questions from the Sunday Samoan in relation to the Fund’s decision to loan to two of these companies.
The S.N.P.F Chief Executive was contacted for a comment following questions raised by a member of the business community who believes the Fund should invest more in local businesses, especially businesses who are struggling with their debts because of the tough economic times.
The businesswoman who only wants to be identified as “Lara” said the S.N.P.F “should be pro-Samoan businesses” and “yet it appears that they are happy to give money to foreigners who come promising the world and then they disappear.”
The woman claimed the S.N.P.F has recently lent “millions” to a Chinese businessman who won a major contract with the government to run the Vaitele Market. She also claimed the Fund had lent “millions more” to Papua New Guinea Group, Lamana Group at Taumeasina.
“I hope they have done their homework and I hope they can guarantee that these monies will come back to Samoa in some form,” she said.
“I’m mindful of the millions that were lent to the Sri Lankans who came to Samoa and started Desico. Those millions have not been recovered.
“At the end of the day, this is money that belongs to all Samoans. As far as I’m concerned, the Fund is here to help Samoans. So it should be at the forefront of helping local businesses.”
Lara said history exists to show that many so-called investors come to Samoa “promising the sun and the moon” and they end up “using resources that should be reserved for local businesses.”
“They come as investors,” she said. “What kind of investor comes to Samoa to rely on Samoa’s money? They are not investors, they are using us. I think the government should be concerned about this. If investors come, they have to bring their own money, not come and then borrow from Samoa. This is not right.”
The businesswoman also raised another issue.
“The other issue I see is that the profits from these companies will end up being taken out of Samoa,” she said.
“Why is the Fund lending to these multi-national-companies such as the Lamana Group when they are supposed to be big time investors bringing Investment into Samoa?”
According to Lara, she has been told that the Central Bank of Samoa (C.B.S.) is especially concerned about the millions being taken out of the country.
“I know the Central Bank has raised the issue with the S.N.P.F. I’ve been told the Central Bank is alarmed that a lot of these monies are moved out of the country right away.”
It was not possible to obtain a comment from the Central Bank yesterday.
But questions about the S.N.P.F’s foreign investments are not new.
Last year, the S.N.P.F’s former Chief Investment Officer, Petra Suhren Chang Tung, confirmed that the Fund was negotiating a “lending instrument” for the Lamana Group. She did not give the details about the conditions of the “lending instrument.”
The Samoa Observer sent questions to the S.N.P.F Chief Executive Officer at the beginning of the week. On Friday, her secretary said the C.E.O had been busy all week with meetings.