Samoa Opposition Leader Slams Government’s Wage Hike

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Palusalue says proposed civil servant raises ‘insulting’

By Jasmine Netzler

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Dec. 29, 2013) – In Samoa, the Government’s three percent general wage salary increase effective this week is an "insult."

As a matter of fact, the leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II has described it as a "con job" and a "joke."

The salary increase was announced by the Minister of Finance, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga when he tabled the 2013-2014 Supplementary Budget two weeks ago.

Parliament was told that WST$2.7 million [US$1.1 million] of the WST$14 million [US$5.9 million] budget has been allocated for general salary increase among public servants.

"The last (wage) adjustment was done more than five years ago and a review is long overdue," Faumuina said in Parliament.

Faumuina said the review, which determined the general wage increase had considered several key factors including the cost of living, inflation as well as disposable incomes and purchasing power of individuals and families.

But Palusalue laughed at the increase during an interview with the Sunday Samoan at his home.

The Safata MP said his concern is while the Auditor General has exposed and the Parliamentary select Committee has confirmed "corrupt practises" within the government, public servants at lower pay scales are made to suffer as a result.

"This is conning people," said Palusalue.

"It’s an insult and a joke because what is the three per cent of WST$10,000 - WST$20,000 [US$4,236 to US$8,473] that most of the workers in the country get annually?

"Nothing – they get WST$300 [US$127] per annum break it down fortnightly that means they are only getting a WST$2 [US$0.85] raise to their existing salaries."

Palusalue said this "is an insult and it’s conning the country because only the higher pay scale workers will benefit."

This means that people who are nurses and teachers will only get WST$2 a fortnight, "which is really nothing.

"This will be the reality while Members of Parliament, Ministers, CEOs and ACEOs benefit from this 3 per cent."

"What is government’s excuse for this?" Palusalue asked mockingly.

"There is no money, but why is there no money?

"It’s been wasted in corrupt practises such as the matters that went on at S.L.C.", he said referring to a failure by Samoa Land Corporation to gather WST$11 million [US$4.7 million] in revenue.

"Yet it could have been used in a better way such as giving teachers and nurses a better pay rise."

The total cost of salary increases for teachers, for example, is WST$318,000 [US$134,734], he said.

Palusalue is in no doubt that the cost of living will soon increase making the lives of these people harder than it is already.

"If the government were not into corrupt dealings as exposed by the auditor general and confirmed by the parliament select committee government we will have enough to give a decent salary raise."

According to the Minister of Finance, WST$318,000 will be available for teachers salary realignment.

"The teachers’ salaries were approved in 2010," he said. "But lack of funding had delayed the implementation.

"Now that funding is secured, the teacher’s wages will be readjusted at any given time once the Supplementary Budget is passed."

Another WST$230,000 [US$97,449] is will also be available to fund vacancies for the Ministry of Education.

Of the 5,337 employed by government according to the Samoa Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census, 2181 work for the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture.

The increase also covers 9,500 pensioners receiving WST$130 [US$55] per month.

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