Samoa Observer

Today's topic: "The ultimate goal of Government’s development efforts is to improve the quality of life for all Samoans" – PM Tuilaepa

APIA, Samoa (Jan. 11, 2011) -On paper the new National Provident Fund (NPF) complex coming up on Beach Road is an impressive sight. (Sunday Samoa, 9 Jan, page 1.)

Designed to change the face of Apia into that glowing with modernity and glamour in the not-so-distant future, this architectural masterpiece is surely a sight for sore eyes.

But then at a cost of $50 million [US$20.6 million] it should be impressive. Samoa is indeed going places.

Across the road is the six-storey Development Bank of Samoa’s (DBS) glass high rise. Three minutes to the east is another elaborate monument belonging to the Accident Compensation Board (ACB).

A little further to the east still is the immaculate high-rise made of glass belonging to the Central Bank of Samoa, and just next door is the six storey Government Office Complex built with aid from the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

And what do these big monuments have in common? They are all owned by the government, they were built during the Human Rights Protection Party’s rein, and except for the Government Office Complex which was built with aid from the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the rest were all tax-funded.

The NPF complex though is surely a big leap from November 1998 when Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi spoke these words:

"The ultimate goal of Government’s development efforts is to improve the quality of life for all Samoans.

"A quality of life that is translated into equitable access to nutrition, health and education facilities and essential services such as water, electricity housing and transportation."

Tuilaepa was speaking at the launching of a report titled "Samoa A Situation Analysis of Human Development," published that year by the United Nations in Apia, in cooperation with the Government of Samoa.

Used as the report’s Foreward, his full address is on page 1.

Now 13 years on the questions that arise are:

And so if our opinion was sought our answer to both questions is decidedly: NO!

We say this because not only have troubling reports from Health suggest we’re heading – or perhaps we’re already there battling - a health crisis caused by poor nutrition which result in rising cases of high blood pressure, rheumatic fever, heart and kidney problems, but the promise of compulsory education is far from adequate since it is not also free, which is why poor parents cannot put their children in school.

And as for "essential services such as water, electricity, housing and transport" equability is debatable. Whereas the rich have access to these services since they have the choice to set up their homes where they are available, the poor do not.

Indeed, the poor must make do with what is available where ever they live or do without. This is what is happening right here near Apia in places like Tafaigata, Falelauniu, Nu’u, and elsewhere.

Some of the families living there were evicted by the government from Sogi, in Apia, where have lived all their lives. Now they are living at Fafaigata in deprivation, squalor and desperation.

Others had moved from Savaii in the hope of finding a better life near Apia, an education for their children, and now they’re finding only misery instead. Today they all need our government’s help. And yet our government seems to be ignoring them as if they not exist.

And that brings us down to the NPF’s $50 million glass house on Beach Road.

Some years ago the NPF – it receives its funds from working members of the public – invested a lot of money in a desiccated coconut manufacturing company owned by a Sri Lankan businessman.

Named Samoa Desico, the company exported its first shipment of six containers of desiccated coconut New Zealand. All the containers were rejected because there were "iron filings" in them. Although the product was to be refined and shipped back, this never happened.

Not to be discouraged, NPF built a new building for Samoa Desciso. When the government refused to extend the manager’s contract, he announced he was resigning. But before he did so, he built his own monument. It is still there but he is no longer around.

In any case, the total cost of this negligent extravagance at the public’s expense – lost investments plus the cost of the two buildings – comes to scores of millions of tala, perhaps closer if not more than the $50 million now being earmarked for the glass house on Beach Road.

So who will this new monument be named after? That would be something nice to know.

And what about the silent poor? Well, let them grovel. Because as far as our government is concerned they don’t exist.

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