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By Faaolo Utumapu

APIA, Samoa (July 21, 2002 - Radio Polynesia/PINA Nius Online)---The World Bank has apologized to the Samoan government for statements attributed to the World Bank that urged Pacific Islanders not to remit funds back to the Pacific.

Samoa's acting Prime Minister Misa Telefoni was contacted by phone by a representative of the World Bank’s director for the Pacific.

He said such views on remittances are not the official view of the World Bank and may be the views only of the people who made the comments.

The telephone call from World Bank followed a reply by the acting Prime Minister Misa Telefoni after reading a PINA Nius Online report about statements at a symposium in Auckland.

Denise Aldous, general manager of the World Bank-backed South Pacific Project Facility, told a Pacific Economic Symposium that sending money creates dependency in the islands and harms New Zealand's economy.

She said, as so many Pacific Islanders in New Zealand are on welfare, remitting funds ultimately costs the New Zealand taxpayers.

In Misa's statement, he said: "It is quite frankly none of the World Bank's or Denise Aldous' business what our Samoan people do.

"We do not force or urge our people to remit funds back to Samoa. Those who do, do so of their own free will.

"They are exercising their God given freedom to do as they wish with their resources. Our people in Samoa are grateful for whatever funds they are able to send over from New Zealand.

"Indeed I will spell it out in no uncertain terms: World Bank mind your own business. Indeed your statement are irresponsible and the Samoan government demands an immediate retraction and apology."

Remittances from New Zealand, Australia and the United States are vital for the economies of countries such as Samoa, Kiribati, and Tonga.

In the latest monthly figures from Samoa, released last week, US$ 5 million was remitted back to Samoa in May.

It was by far the biggest source of revenue for the Samoan economy.

Aldous said at the symposium that as so many Pacific people are on welfare, remitting funds ultimately costs the New Zealand taxpayer.

Aldous added: "And I worry, I suppose, that a lot of the money that's coming in to keep the families going in the islands is actually putting strain on the families here in New Zealand and also a strain on the New Zealand taxpayer as a result of that."

The chief economist of Westpac Bank and New Zealand Pacific Business Person of the Year in 2001, Adrian Orr, said people need the right incentives around them to invest and work hard.

Remittances and welfare can lead to dependence, he said.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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