The real issue with customary lands

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Dear Editor,

In response to Iona Tusa’s letter about the idle lands published in your paper earlier this week, let me say that the problem you noisy internet activists have is that you assume that leasing is as good as sold.

Well, newsflash, how else is that land ever going to be made economically viable without leasing? 

Unless you have $100,000 in your back pocket, you cannot do anything to develop that land unless you get a loan from the bank. 

The banks do not loan on customary land. It is unconstitutional. 

So if the banks don’t loan and you don’t have $100,000, then the only other option is to let it sit there doing nothing. The result is most of the family moves to Apia or overseas to get the money that their lands cannot provide for them.

If 80% of the country’s land is doing nothing, that is an economic drag on the country.

I meet so many importers overseas who say they would love to accept exports from Samoa but the problem is they may get one or two full containers over two months but after that, they may get half a container and then nothing for three more months. 

The consistency of supply is completely shot. That is why Samoan agricultural exports never compete against the big Asian farms.

The best thing the noisy overseas and Apia activists could do is put their collective money where their big mouths are. 

Put money into their family’s land and get that land working for the family. Instead of sending money for church buildings and funerals (that’s another issue), put it into a family business.

No, too hard? Too many arguments? Too many court cases? Too much distrust among the branches of the family? The overseas don’t trust the locals?

Well, there is your problem. 

This whole argument about land is because Samoan families do not trust each other. They say “the Sa’o” as if the Sa’o is an agent of the government, when the Sa’o is the person they as an extended family chose to be the Sa’o; many of whom are overseas-based (as they hold sa’o titles split 100x ways).

 

Petelo Suaniu

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