Minister of Finance weighs options

By Lanuola Tupufia – Ah Tong ,

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Minister of Finance: Sili Epa Tuioti.

Minister of Finance: Sili Epa Tuioti.

The Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, has admitted that the closure of Yazaki Eds Samoa, leaving 740 people jobless, will have an impact on the economy.

But he is not losing hope, assuring that the government will do whatever it can to provide support for the workers and their families in their hour of need.

“Obviously the government has the responsibility to provide for our people and we will do whatever is necessary,” Sili told the Sunday Samoan.

“Of course it is a setback. It is a setback if we are not going to provide jobs for people who care for their families and contribute to their community and churches.”

Minister Sili was responding to questions about what the government plan is following the closure of Yazaki as well as the cannery in Pago Pago, leaving hundreds of Samoans jobless.

 “There is no question these will have an impact on the economy,” he said.

“That’s why it’s important that we look at the best way to accommodate and re-employ them.  “It’s going require bit of time and investment discussion with our business people on opportunities available…we will do what we can to provide alternative jobs.”

Sili said the country has to remain positive. And with the closure of Yazaki, the door is now open to another potential investor.

 “The Ministry of Finance’s plan is to ensure the economy improves and continues to generate more businesses.

“We are also looking to entice more investors to come and invest in Samoa.

“When we talk about investors, we do not necessarily mean foreign investors but our own people who have the resources to invest in here to create jobs and look at various sorts of training to up-skill those people at Yazaki who will lose their jobs. 

“It’s not an impossible task if we put our minds to it and talk with the business people.”

Sili assured that the government will also work closely with the workers affected.

“We want to talk to those who used to work for Yazaki and identify areas where they could be employed. This will require some time and patience. 

“We may need to talk to some of the large companies to accommodate some of the people laid off from work.”

Away from employment opportunities, Sili said there are other potential revenue earners for the government.

 “There are businesses interested in leasing the facilities that Yazaki currently uses and again it’s for business expansion for warehouse storage and that’s going to require more people to work. 

“We need to sit down and see how our business will absorb not necessarily all of them but a large number of them to continue to care for their families and communities and contribute to their church.”  

Last week, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ileleMalielegaoi has assured the nation the government is working on a plan.

Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, Tuilaepa said a part of the plan involves looking for more opportunities for Samoans to take up work in Regional Seasonal Employment schemes with Australia and New Zealand.

He revealed that the government is preparing for negotiations with these nations to discuss the possibility of increasing Samoa’s quota on the schemes.

He made reference to the Carpenter scheme where seven local builders were recently recruited under the Canterbury post-earthquake rebuild to work in New Zealand for 12months. 

Sili supports the Prime Minister’s vision for the R.S.E schemes.

Two weeks ago, Y.E.S. announced its closure.

Y.E.S. Branding Division Manager in Japan, Yoko Yamada, said the closure is due to the car manufacturing industry in Australia winding down.

Over the years, Yazaki has been supplying products to the Australian automotive market but the latest developments in the market there have hada “knock on impact here,” forcing the company to re-evaluate the viability of their operation in Samoa. 

“The demands of the market for shorter lead times and more flexibility coupled with the logistics connections to Samoa make it commercially un-viable to supply any other market for example U.S.A. or Japan from here,” he said.

“As a result we have been trying to identify other alternatives for this operation. Unfortunately we have not been able to identify anything viable and must therefore announce that we will phase out production operations in Samoa.” 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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