Letter to the Editor: Australian Aid and a Five Million Tālā per District Campaign

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PC: Asia Pacific Report

Letter to the Editor from Opposition Leader Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

Last week, the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, responsible for the FAST $WST5 million per district campaign, gave strong assurances that the outstanding balance of $WST4 million owed to all districts shall be paid prior to the next general elections. 

Next year, 2025, is the last of the current parliamentary term. 

This is when the total amount of $WST204,000,000 ($WST4 million per constituency) is due to be paid to all the districts.

Already, the Government’s cash flow is at critically low levels, which begs the question as to how the FAST Administration will fund this promise to the people of Samoa.

We know that Government is already committed to financing major expenditures in 2024, including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later this year and the cost for our national sports teams to the Olympic Games in July.

Just a few days before the Minister’s announcement, the Government issued a press release informing us of an additional $WST36.7 million aid grant from Australia.

What is the additional aid grant for? 

Is it to buy votes for the FAST party by subsidizing their $WST5 million per district campaign promise done under the guise of programmes to help the poor in the villages directed by Australian personnel, to avoid scrutiny?

We have witnessed the practice of Donors providing direct funding to Members of Parliament in other Pacific Islands nations. 

This is done under the pretext of funding constituency projects for the poor. 

The reality is that most of this direct donor funding is used as slush funds and for vote buying. 

In by-passing established Government-led donor coordination processes and mechanisms, there is no accountability and transparency in the use of these donor funds. 

The taxpayers of donor countries such as Australia expect their hard earned money to be used responsibly and transparently.

We would like to believe that this is not the case for Samoa.

Our friends must remember that nothing remains a secret in Samoa, as everything comes out in the light. 

There are parents and children, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts in every party camp where the truth always emerges with a rumour and light-hearted humour.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Leader of HRPP