Small business owners at the Savalalo Flea market can expect a new mini-permanent market as their place of work in the next six months.
This was confirmed by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell.
Since the Savalalo market was destroyed by fire a year ago, the Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.) has provided a temporary market for the vendors to sell their products.
Back then, each vendor was provided with $1,000. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said the tents are only a permanent solution.
But this was a year ago.
Today, the tents are a source of headaches. The place does not really keep the rain out but it definitely keeps the heat in.
Asked for a comment, Lautafi said the main reason for the delay is due to the Apia Waterfront project.
“As you are aware, the government will start working on the Apia Waterfront Project soon,” said Lautafi. “And so we don’t want to come up with a plan now as they (vendors) might be asked to relocate again.”
Lautafi said the Cabinet has already approved a plan to build semi-permanent shelters for the vendors.
“We will build shelters that are more secure and safe for the vendors and the small businesses.
“We are aware that the tents they are using now are not safe for them as the tents they are using now are starting to leak when it’s raining.
“But we have been discussing with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment about their plans on the Apia Waterfront Project, as they are the ones spearheading the project, so that we can make a move and work on building new shelters for the vendors.
“We don’t want to build permanent shelters and then end up having to move again, that will only waste money. But we are looking at a way in which we can make this work easily without having to move a lot and waste money.”
Lautafi went on to say that he also feels for the tenants and business owners.
“To me, I feel for the people using the market and selling their products there. So to tell you the truth, we need to do something as soon as possible.
“Right now we are negotiating so that everything falls into place so that one plan won’t affect the other. So probably in the next six months, we will be able to do something about it.”
Many vendors expressed frustrations about the delay.
But they have no choice but put up with the struggles because their families’ livelihoods depend on the money they make from there. Vendor Fuimaono Malae from the village of Aleisa said they have been struggling to earn money since the fire.
“The tents are bad for business when the weather is bad. When it rains, the water comes into the stalls and when it’s windy, our products collect all the dust from the road.
“It’s really hard to earn money, especially when it’s raining. Sometimes, I don’t hang up the clothes to sell because it’s raining all throughout the week. The sad thing about it is that, for most of us, our families are depending on this for money.
“But there are days where we don’t earn a single cent because of bad weather.”
Another tenant shared the same feeling.
Fia Ali’itasi from the village of Vaitele Fou said sales have been really slow.
“It’s been a tough year for us since the old flea market was burnt.
“You know most of us have been doing this ever since we were young and most of our families are depending on us to provide money for them.
“But it’s hard because of the condition of the market that we are using now. I think something should be done as soon as possible so that we don’t have to keep using these tents.
“You know I don’t hang up my clothes to sell most of the time because of the rain. It would be a waste of time if I put it up because the clothes will get wet.
“I am not happy with the place we are using right now. I know it is only temporary but I am still unhappy with it, our sales dropped and we hardly have any customers nowadays.”