How exactly have these multi-million -tala projects improved lives?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here’s a question. Why is it that after all these multi-million-tala projects by the Government, which always and usually promise improved and cheaper services, and yet we hardly see a difference?

Let’s look at basic utilities for instance, particularly electricity. 

We all know that for sometime now, the Government has been making a song and dance about solar power, renewable energy, alternative energy sources and what have you. 

Internationally and locally, our leaders have been talking about Samoa becoming a leader in reducing reliance on fossil fuel with solar power promising great savings and better efficiency for Samoa.  

We also know that recently a ridiculously expensive facility that is the Fiaga Power Station was opened. Costing close to a $100 million tala, it again promised improved and cheaper electricity. But that’s not all. 

Since then, the Government has been opening and launching several other projects all over the place singing the same tune. We are not going to bore you with the details. 

But have they delivered on these promises? Since the time those promises were made until now, have we seen any improvement? Has the cost of electricity become cheaper? How have all those solar projects contributed to cheaper electricity? Or do they only exist for show? 

There might be a perfectly logical explanation for what’s happening.

Purely from what we are seeing everyday in Samoa, nothing can be further from the truth. While the electricity supply is erratic at best sometimes, with constant power fluctuations destroying hundreds of thousands of electrical appliances, the price of electricity is another story.

This week, the cost of electricity increased. Cash power for instance now costs domestic consumers $0.84 sene per unit, apparently the highest it has been all year. 

Commercial operators and the business community of course will be hit a lot harder. As if many of them are not struggling already with taxes and the expensive cost of basic utilities.

According to a story we published last week, the increase follows the approval by the Office of the Regulator of an increase in the energy charge of electricity from $0.48 to $0.51 sene.

The Electric Power Corporation said the charges were increased based on August’s fuel prices. The story goes on to say that power produced independently for Samoa by the likes of solar farms and the wind turbine were also allegedly factored into the cost.

Now what on earth is going on? Are we being told that these are actually driving up the price of electricity? Can somebody please try and explain what all this means?

The fact of the matter is this.

The electricity market in Samoa was opened up recently to encourage competition by independent power producers, with the expectation that consumers would eventually get to benefit from lower rates.

Obviously that is not the case.

Which means one really has to wonder what exactly is the point of all these projects the Government keeps launching and all this rubbish talk we keep hearing about cheaper electricity.

Mind you, the problem is not confined to electricity. Think of the internet for instance. Has anything changed or improved since all this big talk about this cable, that cable and whatever? 

Come to think of it, the Government should forget this nonsense about making Samoa a hub for whatever. They should try and bring down the prices first and foremost. 

Once they do that, they can then make their promises about the moon, sun and the stars. 

The fact of the matter is all these projects are contributing to this menace called the cost of living, which many families can barely afford. 

Someone needs to do an independent cost and benefit analysis to assess whether this country should continue to pour more money into these projects.

The fact is people are suffering and can barely get by. 

Fuel prices have increased and so has electricity prices. What that means is that the cost of everything else will also likely to increase.

Sadly, the minimum wage in Samoa today of $2.30 doesn’t cut it anymore.

There are also no social benefits for people to fall back on. Which means people are left to beg, steal or to rely on their relatives overseas, mostly in New Zealand for help. And yet people there have their own problems to deal with. 

We are seeing more and more evidence about the existence of poverty in New Zealand with the housing crisis making life even more miserable.

Many Samoans there are having to sleep in cars as a last resort because they simply don’t have enough money to get by. How then are they supposed to help their families in Samoa when they can’t get by themselves?

Where to from here? 

Tell us what you think. Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

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