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Tautua President says stimulus a "disappointment"

The $66 million tala stimulus package from the Government has been described as a "disappointment" by the President of the Tautua Samoa Party, Afualo Dr. Luagalau Salele.

The allocated amount aimed to boost the economy will not go far, said Afualo.

The supplementary budget, composed mostly of economic relief measures for consumers and businesses, is expected to expand the budget deficit to 1.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.). 

The Government passed stimulus measures targeted at consumers to the value of $27.5 million, including a one-off pension of $300 and waivers on utility bills. 

About $12.5 million or 20 per cent of the budget was dedicated to the private sector which included waivers on Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.) contributions for tourism businesses for up to six months and local production subsidies that free local enterprises from loan repayment obligations for three months. 

While Afualo agrees that something at least is better than nothing in times like this, he said the least he expected was a $100 million tala to sustain the economy, with more hard cash for the people, especially those affected.

"To be honest I was very disappointed," he said.

"I was expecting something a little bit bigger, at least a hundred million and [it shows] that the government has not put it's commitments [to Samoa] first.

"Although the health sector has been given a significant amount, that's good but overall $66 million just doesn't go far enough to stimulate growth."

The economic assistance laid before Parliament on Tuesday by Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti was characterised as an initial policy response.

Given the unprecedented continuing damages the virus can have on Samoa, the stimulus package's goal to get the economy moving for the next three months at least is far fetched. Simply because more money is needed to be injected into the economy, he said.

"I don't think this will ever carry us out of [the next] three months, because already major sectors have been affected but you can't see any significant income pumped from Government," he said.

"Because that's what we want, we want real income that comes into the economy, we're not seeing that from this budget, all the Government is doing is using N.P.F. but N.P.F. is not government , these are contributor's entitlements."

Afualo suggests that Government needs to be bold and expediting the expenditure side of revenue to create wealth at this time, "because we really need that."

He said policies that governs the stimulus measures need to be reviewed and eased up to release the money into the people's hands.

The funds withdrawn from their entitlements are then used to carry them through as they spend which will eventually end up into Government's hands, Afualo said.

"I was expecting them to look to the overall households, the Government [should have] come down with some hard income given to the families and households, they don't expect much but at least something like $500 tala [each], as it will be used and eventually come back to the Government," he said.

"Families need hard cash, we don't need the exemption of taxed and all of this because at the end of the day we are still paying the other taxes, but we need external revenues such as financial assistance from Government.

"I think the question we have to ask is, why isn't there much commitment from Government at this very dire situation? And then probably we can say maybe there's nothing there.

"But for us the people, if there is nothing, then [at least] be forthright and forthcoming and the people will sacrifice and the people will be happy to make that sacrifice and whatever assistance that comes out of them [is welcomed] rather than using the policies to provide that assistance."

Afualo reiterated that such measures just don't work because it is something the people do not need.

Although not all elements of the stimulus package were gloomy according to Afualo, he applauded the Government move to inject $300 in the Pensioners' monthly funds.

"[This is] a spin-off which I would say is a gift from our government to our senior citizens and i'm happy for that, but then again, it would be great to increase their pensions to $300 a month, because that would be a significant cushion for the people."

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