Samoa Opposition Worried About Lack Of Job Opportunities

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One employed person must support nine household members

By Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, June 21, 2015) – The lack of economic growth and the absence of job opportunities are worrying signs for Samoa.

That’s what Opposition Member of Parliament; Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, raised in the House when Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s $785million [US$333 million] budget for 2015-2016 was debated.

According to Toeolesulusulu, the declining job opportunities mean that one person in a household of nine people is obligated to support the rest of the family.

He referred to a report from the Bureau Statistics, which identified that of 80,000 people, only 23,000 are employed.

"If you think about it, only one person in a household of nine is working," said Toeolesulusulu.

"We are a well established country that has been independent for 53 years but the reality of life for us is in every household of nine people, only one person works to pay for the water bill, electricity, school the kids and feed everyone.

"How can one person stretch his pay to support the rest of the family?"

Pointing to infrastructural developments in Samoa, Toeolesulusulu said the roads and buildings look fine.

"We have these great developments but within each household, I cannot say the same," he said.

"My advice to the government is to prioritise the families. They should look at ways to make sure employment opportunities are available. They should also look at improving salaries". Referring to the budget, Toeolesulusulu questioned $6million that has been allocated for the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour. He also questioned the high salaries of government employees, saying the bulk of the money is being spent on only a few workers. At the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for instance, Toeolesulusulu says 80 per cent of its $10million budget will be spent on salaries. He added that the M.N.R.E is a Ministry that also gets grants and funds from overseas.

Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Commerce Industry and Labour, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo interjected.

He reminded Toeolesulusulu that "about 80 percent of our people work the land to provide bread and butter for their family".

"We also have relatives overseas who send remittances to support their families".

The Deputy Prime Minister also referred to accommodation and tourism businesses that most families run.

The Minister of M.N.R.E., Fa’amoetauloa Fa’ale Tuumali’i agreed. He explained that the increase of allocated funds for salaries is to pay for contractors.

"That is why the percentage of employment remains the same because most of that money goes to pay for contracted works".

As for grants and funds from overseas, Fa’amoetauloa said they are not used for salaries.

"Those funds are for projects," he said. "They don’t pay for salaries.

The government pays for that".v But the Tautua Samoa Leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II, was not convinced.

He reminded the Deputy Prime Minister that perhaps he’s the one that needs to read the reports about the unemployment figures in Samoa.

Fonotoe, however, insisted that he doesn’t need to read the reports because he is well aware about the situation.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, added his voice.

"Those are the numbers of people that are registered and paying N.P.F," he said about the figures quoted by Toeolesulusulu. "But there are many businesses that are not included in here. "It’s no different from the fathers of this country who do not declare their other children but they only surface at the funeral".

Before Parliament was adjourned, Speaker of the House, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao asked Members if anyone wanted to speak about the budget.

Despite his persistence, only four M.P's spoke on Thursday.

Parliament resumes this week.

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