Letter to the Editor: The Siumu Cross Island Road Upgrading Project

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Opinion – Letter to the Editor by Leader of HRPP Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. 

I refer to the Siumu Cross Island Road Project and the recent interview by the Minister of Works published in the Samoa Observer newspaper on 24 April 2023.

The Siumu Cross Island Road was first upgraded from our very first World Bank Loan through the International Development Association (the WB soft lending window) approved in 1974.

The road was completed in 1976.

I was a Senior Official at the Treasury Ministry, that dealt with these negotiations at the time Samoa became the newest Member Country of the World Bank Group.

The second upgrading of Siumu Cross Island Road over 8 years ago focused more on repairing damages to the SCIR following the heavy rainfall of 1989, Cyclone Ofa 1990, Cyclone Val 1991, Cyclone Lynn, Cyclone Evan and others.

Only sections of the SCIR were upgraded, from Tanugamanono to the 3 corners at Siumu due to delays on the survey of the road boundaries.

Freehold lands to be taken for public purposes must be factored in the final cost of the project funded from Multilateral sources.

World Bank through IDA is more flexible in its loan conditions than ADB, the reason why our Government managed to successfully negotiate for IDA’s agreement to allow our local construction companies Rudy Ott Construction and later added on Silva Construction and Ulia Construction to build our Malifa – Faleolo Airport highway as a Joint Venture contractor.

The contract for supervision and design for SCIR was awarded first to a New Zealand based company but the decision for construction was deferred until after the General Elections 2021 to avoid an allegation that the Human Rights Protection Party was using publicly funded projects for campaign purposes.

When the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi Government took over 23 July 2021, it announced the delay of all projects.

This delay of almost 2 years resulted in the SCIR project cost sky rocketing beyond the capacity of our local contractors.

Similar delays in the Alaoa dam project, also meant Ah Liki Construction could not proceed with the building of Lelata Bridge as part of the flood control measure for low lying villages at Vaisigano.

Meanwhile, contracting companies from other countries like China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan etc are eligible to bid for all projects like SCIR financed by ADB and World Bank from contributions from the same donor countries.

All recipients of loan funds must negotiate for issues benefitting their citizens and not just nodding their heads and blame others to win cheap political points.

Government should also reconsider the relocation of the proposed flea market under New Zealand Aid to the already reclaimed 10 acres behind the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi building.

For any building built in a wrong location in accordance with a donors demand, is never going to be quasi-permanent when future development priorities are reset.