Clergy taxes must go: Associate Minister
A Member of Parliament has called upon the Ministry of Revenue to abolish taxation laws targeting the collection of income tax from members of the clergy in Samoa.
The call was made by the Member of Parliament for Vaisigano No.1., and Associate Minister for the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure (M.W.T.I.), Niuava Eti Malolo.
Niuava spoke for the first time in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon but was cut short when the parliamentary sitting was disrupted with commotions happening outside of parliament.
He continued his speech during Thursday's morning session.
A former educator and public servant who had worked in the Agricultural sector, Niuava is of the view that he has made it this far in life, as a reward for his service to his spiritual parents during his younger days.
"I used to prepare food and walk from our house to the pastor's house every Sunday and I believe it is why I am here in this position," said Niuava.
"Therefore, the Honorable Minister of Revenue and Deputy Prime Minister, abolish the taxation law for church ministers.
"Cut it now, stop it, right now."
(The Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party's manifesto included scrapping the taxation laws for members of the clergy as one of their policies and plans, prior to this year's election.)
The law to tax church ministers and the Head of State of Samoa were passed in the last parliamentary term by the former administration.
The biggest denomination on the land, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) stood firm on their belief that the law is not in line with the church's constitution and the matter has been in and out of the courts in the past years.
Moreover, Niuava also urged the Revenue Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio to look into and "review" the Green Lane list.
"I've heard about it before but never really understood what it meant," said Niuava.
"I thought there should also be a blue lane, green lane, orange lane, but please look into this issue and have them reviewed please."
Niuava also queried the Finance Minister, the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers to reveal or explain whether it was true that there are Ministerial drivers with salaries as high as $34,000.
"I started with only $11,000 per year as a public servant," Niuava said.
"So if it's true that there is a Minister with a driver with this salary, you should reveal it now and explain."
Last week, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has rejected claims the new administration is planning to increase ministerial drivers' salaries to $34,000 and has called the reports baseless rumours.
La'auli Leuatea Schmidt, who is also the Chairman of the F.A.S.T. party, told the Samoa Observer there was no truth in rumours about an imminent wage increase.
The speculation and rumor about an increase started last week after a special meeting convened last Saturday by the Public Service Association (P.S.A.) executive.