Exporter: Samoa Needs Investment Citizenship Bill Will Attract

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Bill will foster much needed economic stimulation

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, March 3, 2015) – An exporter says Samoa needs the kind of investment that the government’s proposed Citizenship Investment Bill would usher in.

The bill offers citizenship to foreign investors who can provide four million tala [US$1.7 million] to the country and meet certain legal requirements.

The opposition is concerned the legislation opens the way for criminal or terrorist elements to use Samoan citizenship.

However, the Managing Director of Samoa's Natural Foods International Ltd, Grant Percival, has told Radio New Zealand International that the bill looks to foster much needed economic stimulation for the country.

He said the bill is about attracting a new kind of foreign investor and looks very much to China. "Most of the Chinese that are here, and there has been a large increase, are people here working in jobs for locals and who get permanent residency through having been here, working here for five years," Mr. Percival is quoted as saying.

"Once they've got permanent residency they can stay here, and then they come into competition with us, and the trouble is they're generally doing the same things that we're doing. "And they haven't brought in any investment funds. In fact they've taken money out of the economy."

Mr. Percival says the government is targeting Chinese with money.

"Samoa has a good reputation with the Chinese government so some of them are looking in this direction," he says.

"We met a group of them end of last year and they were very interested, but the levels they said were just way too high. It was quite difficult for them. They felt that they would not invest at that level.

"But at something half that level they might consider it. And at something at quarter that level they definitely would consider it."

Mr. Percival says the Bill proposes some very good ideas.

"Because they will bring in fresh capital, they won't be borrowing locally and one thing about the Chinese, they don't start a business unless they know they have an outlet. "And generally their outlet is China, so they'll come in here, start a business, they'll know they can export into China." So it could actually help the exporting scene in Samoa.

"It would help it dramatically because it would allow it to grow fairly quickly."

But what about the trans-shipment sort of issue though, would it possibly pay for some improvement on that front?

"If we can get the volumes up," Percival responded. "Because the problem right now is that shipments from China are huge, shipments to China are negligible.

"If we could even begin to address half of it, a third of it, we would see huge increases in reduction in costs and increases in economic livelihoods. Because one thing, it drives down the whole cost.

"Right now if you take ship from, or if you bring a container in, you're paying for the return coming in, but if the return is being paid for then it will decrease the price and increase utilisation and make them much happier."

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