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The Samoa Government’s “phase two” $80 million (US$29 million) stimulus packages includes too many measures that will have little effect on the national economy, an economist and opposition politician says.
Economist and opposition party member, Luagalau Afualo Dr. Salele, says the Government’s stimulus package is composed of too few measures which involve direct cash injections into the private sector making its likely effect inadequate.
“The Government should not include our contribution to the Samoa National Provident Fund into the stimulus package, this is our money, not Government monies,” said Luagalau who is the Team Leader for the Tautua Samoa Party opposition party.
“We are not seeing commitment from the Government to assist with the growth of the economy, they but they should be forthcoming with the way they manage the economy and allow the economy to be stimulated.”
According to Luagalau, the Government should consider the urgent release of further funds given the drastic impact the coronavirus-led economic downturn has already had on national unemployment.
But instead he said Tuesday’s stimulus package was padded out with initiatives that did not come directly from Government coffers and were not truly designed to stimulate the economy.
The Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti said the new fiscal year will be kicked off with the release of the Phase II of the Government’s assistance package to the private sector including SNPF dividend payouts for all contributors to the total value of $35 million tala (US$12.5 million) in July, 2020.
Luagalau said these are contributions by members of the public and shouldn’t be listed as part of the Government’s stimulus package.
The monthly pension for the country’s senior citizens will also be increased by $15 (U$5) from $145 (US$53 million) a month to $160 (US$58) starting in July. Luagalau said that is not enough.
“They should receive $300(US$110) per month; $145 (US$53) can only pay for so much, but they need steady revenue from the Government. The proposed pension will assist the elders to make investments and also they can be well cared for with that amount of money, in terms of nourishment meals,” Luagalau said.
He said most senior citizens have to buy food on credit until they receive their monthly pensions.
“As soon as they receive their pensions, it goes directly to the store to pay for the credit,” Luagalau said.
“And some families rely solely on the Senior citizens’ pensions to buy food which is a mentality that has to be phased out because that is not the purpose these funds are given to the elderly population.”
Luagalau was referring to financial assistance targeted at raising the roles of committees within the villages to take charge of ensuring improved sanitation practices and healthy living as well as education at the grassroots.
Finance Minister Sili Epa Tuioti announced the Government would distribute $3,600 (US$1,311) per village committee as verified by the Ministry for Women into bank accounts to assist with activities.
Luagalau further said a reduction of 10 sene in the rate of water and electricity should be doubled.
“This 10 sene reduction per unit is ridiculous! The majority of the families have lost jobs and yet the reduction in rates is minimal. The Government needs to reconsider this and increase it 20 sene, which is more affordable given the situation we are in,” he said.
Luagalau also took issue with a policy reducing the daily fixed electricity rates offered to hotels by 50 per cent.
“The Government knows very well there are no guests staying at hotels. There is no point in reducing the rate,” he said.
“The Government should waive the electricity rates for the hotels.
“Whatever the hotels are making from the locals should go to paying for their staff, not electricity bills.”
He further argued there should be a relief package for the private sector, not just tourism businesses.
“It appears the Government wants to look good by saying they are reducing the hotels’ electricity rates [by] 50 per cent, yet there are no guests. The Government should also consider waiving rates for water and electricity for other businesses,” he said.
He commended the move to provide assistance for the social welfare of NGOs who currently caring for vulnerable citizens including Mapuifagalele - Home for the Elderly; Samoa Victim Support Group; Goshen Trust; Faataua le Ola; Nuanua o le Alofa; Loto Taumafai; Senese and Divine Mercy Moamoa and others.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS
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