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What would you ask the Prime Minister?
20 July 2008

Photo: Hon. Prime Minister of Samoa together with Maurice van Vliet.

What would you like to ask the Prime minister if you would meet him? Probably about the right hand issue or maybe the rising cost of living? I had that chance to take some of the Prime Minister precious time and to face him with some issues where you and I would love to get an answer on.

Many people wondering why the Prime Minister is making certain decisions that keep all the discussions forums going on. Today I had the chance to question him about the most hottest topics at the moment in Samoa. From the investment climate to of course the right hand drive issue. After making an appointment with his secretary I was sitting for about 30 minutes in the meeting room walking around to see all the paintings of previous prime ministers when it was time for me to question the PM.

Today specially in the western world like America, Europe Australia and New Zealand internet is a booming business and everything is possible throughout the internet, specially because its fast and cheap. What is the government of Samoa doing to support the Samoan business on the internet?

Prime Minister: We develop an internet connection and general improvement to our telecommunications very late compared to the other Pacific Islands, they were well ahead of us. For instance telephone connections, we developed that around 1997 and tied up with telecommunications for an exclusive right of 10 years and that ended last year. But we have to determinate that exclusive right contract in order to improve our telecommunications.

Therefore we have done everything to upgrade our telecommunications as from 1999 onwards, that was when I was the minister for telecommunications and also the prime minister at the same time. We value the importance of telecommunications; we took the telecommunication business out of the Samoan ministry, which acts now as private company under the name Samoatel.

Internet business is still poor, output connection is done through satellite and we have little scale capacity and also very small, its also for that reason that we ended up in an agreement with a company to build a marine cable which is from here to American Samoa up to Hawaii. To increase the large capacity and the speed of communication so Samoan internet will be much faster and reliable and we anticipate with the commissioning of that project when it officially begins to operate in the beginning of next year, and that is a major development that increase internet business in Samoa.
Will that be cheaper as well? Yes

Crime rates in Samoan communities living overseas they are shocking high, what are the possible solutions the Samoan government can offer?

Prime Minister: Well we have no connection with Samoan communities living overseas. Our cultural leaders are well aware of the Samoan solution to this problem, It emanates from the environment where they are living and the need to live according to the Christian believes. That is where the solution is. The time that parents forget to inculcate in the childrenís minds teaching on how to direct conduct your life following the 10 commandments of the law and you will find for instances if there is a breakdown in families. Thatís all.

Manu Samoa played to the NZ Maoris, Fiji and Australia Aís and Japan but lost four times except the marginal win over Tonga, hoe do you see he future of Manu Samoa?

Prime Minister: Well we have a new and very young team and of course the coach is new and they need still to establish the style and methodology with the new coach and I think we have to be patient.

And when do you think Manu Samoa will win games and to improve their quality? We should begin to see some exciting display this weekend. (marginal win over Tonga)

What do you think of the new coach? He is very good.

What are the benefits from overseas companies to invest in Samoa?
Prime Minister: We have a good stable government, that is the uppermost condition and a really friendly climate, ideal for business investment and we have a highly educated work force.

The cost of living is increasing nowadays in Samoa, everything costs money and nothing is for free. What does the Samoan government doing for Samoan people to keep their head up.

Prime Minister: Well this is all caused by inflation but in terms for demand of local food supply you know one of the important things regarding to rising food prices is for our own people to became more protected with the land. We have lots and lots of cultivated lands for our people to try and farm. There are enormous opportunities to increase production and increase supply of food stuff. We have plenty of local food stuff to substitute for the important ones. In the area of fuel prices we have policies ourselves for the development of renewable energy sources. Presently we are producing electricity from hydro. We have several units we can utilize professionally to increase hydropower to set for the future. We are also actively looking into other alternatives such as bio-fuels and solar and wind energy, so that are quit a few things to we can look forward to resources of energy.

I understand that there are always people who are disagree with the way your serve your policy but the hot topic in Samoa at the moment is the right hand switch issue. Why does the government feels that there is a need to buy cars from overseas in the believe that it is cheaper to import cars from overseas?

Prime Minister: The flow of immigration out from Samoa is 99.9 percent of people who will life in Australia or New Zealand. Which are countries driving right hand drive. When they come back of course now they find it very easy to drive in Samoa after we implement the change. So when people coming back to Samoa they donít need no further readjustments. They can get quick on the road, take the vehicle and drive out. About 80% of the tourist comes from Australia and New Zealand. With right hand drive vehicles and when they coming here they should be more comfortable.

And our laws will be the same as their laws and of course for a long time many of our people in NZ and Australia could not send a car back to Samoa and now they can send cars to family who can make use of it going to the plantation for instance to improve their productivity. These are the major consideration that forced us the adopt the policy. Also there is a mass produce in right hand drive vehicle in Japan, it is far far cheaper to import right hand drives over left hand drive vehicles. Left hand vehicles are also manufactured in Japan but this market is minor. The production costs are much higher for a small quantity produce. So for all aspects the case to change is overwhelming.

I visitor ask the question if cars only allowed to import when they build in 2000 or later? Which is then for many Samoan families way to expensive to buy these cars is that true? Prime Minister: No, for 1996. (12years is the maximum)

Many Samoan people are complaining about their wage, is there a change that the minimum wage will increase in the near future?
Prime Minister: No, our minimum wages are very high.

Samoa is a great Island where the people of the sun always smiles
How do you see the future of Samoa?
Prime Minister: Same, because of the character of the people and thatís very good for the development for the tourists, specially if you go to other parts of the Pacific you wont find the easiness and the security and the friendliness of our people.

Is there anything you would like to say to the large communities overseas?
Prime Minister: I would say to our people overseas that many of them continue to live according to our customs, especially in the early of continuing to send their children to schools to achieve the best education to have to best opportunities.

I would encourage them to do so, itís the only way to lift up the economic welfare of families, to ensure the wealth and education which Samoan people normally give to our children. Also not overlook the fact they must teach our children the customs, specially the custom of respect for the parents and older people. They should continue to maintain the life of the Samoan principles that is closely with the law of mozes, the 10 commandments and it is highly important that they must adopt Samoan values for as a basis for keeping the Samoan case solid. I want to tell them that we are seen that our son and daughters excell in sports they should continue to push by their parents to be good whatever they do in a job or as a sportsman, they also giving Samoa the dignity that Samoa deserves.

We here in Samoa to do our part to develop Samoa and 1 day when they got back for holidays to Samoa we will be able to present them for a Samoa that is clean peaceful open and friendly.

-The End-