Savai’i village bans Chinese-owned shops

By Ilia L. Likou 17 February 2017, 12:00AM

The village of Salelologa has initiated what is believed to be a first in Samoa.

The Village Council has agreed to ban any new Chinese-owned business being set up on the village’s customary land. 

The ban does not cover government-owned land at Salelologa.

The decision was confirmed by the Mayor of Sapulu, Tuilimu Manuele Paletasala, during a telephone interview with the Samoa Observer yesterday.

Sapulu is one of the sub-villages of Salelologa, the gateway into Savai’i.

 “The village finalised the decision three weeks ago,” Tuilimu said.

 “The ban only covers customary land under the guidance of the Village Council of Salelologa.

But we are also mindful that a lot of the lands in Salelologa is under the government and the ban does not cover those lands.

 “But within the whole village of Salelologa (‘a’ai o Salelologa), no Chinese owned business is allowed to be set up any more. We want to encourage our own Samoan people to set their businesses up in Salelologa.”

Tuilimu said that is all the details he could confirm at this stage.

But the issue was also discussed during a meeting by the Businesses of Salafai Association (B.O.S.A.) meeting last week.

“Also raised during this workshop were concerns and frustrations at the sudden influx of Chinese owned businesses opening up in Savai’i recently, particularly in the Salelologa area,” a statement from the Association said (see story). 

“These same concerns and frustrations are shared by the high chiefs and orators of Salelologa. 

Last week, they initiated a ban on Chinese entrepreneurs from setting up businesses in the village to protect small family shops and businesses, which have served Salelologa for generations.” 

It was not possible to get a comment from the government yesterday.

Last month, however, Member of Parliament for Faleata West, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi urged the government to revisit the issue of the influx of “new Chinese businesses” across the country.

He wanted the relevant officials to ensure local businesses who are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the new Chinese are given a fair chance.

At the moment, he said Samoans cannot compete with the new Chinese.

“It’s a concern not only in this area (Vaitele) but also Samoa in general,” said Leala. 

“The thing is, we want to bring genuine business people. You see, these businesses have both negative and positive impacts.

“Positive in terms of competition and you know when there is competition, the prices drop. And that’s good because the prices will be affordable for our people.”

But Leala said the growing number of new Chinese businesses threaten the livelihood of local businesses.

 “The truth is it’s so hard for our people to compete with the Chinese shops,” he said. 

“Our people used to own Supermarkets and run their own stores. But it’s so hard for them to compete with these Chinese businesses. As you can see all around Samoa, most of the supermarkets and wholesales are owned by Chinese.

“This is the line of the business they are all getting into. And our local shop owners cannot compete with them.”

By Ilia L. Likou 17 February 2017, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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