Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Australia Development Minister, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells
APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 15 JANUARY 2017: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has hit back at comments made by the Australian Development Minister, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells saying comments were insulting.
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ comments were directed at Chinese Aid in the Pacific referring to ‘useless buildings’ and ‘roads to nowhere.’
In an interview with the Government newspaper Savali, Tuilaepa said the comments can damage the excellent existing relationship between Australia and the Pacific countries and particularly Samoa.
“To me as Chairman of the Pacific Leaders Forum, the comments question the integrity, wisdom and intelligence of the leaders of the Pacific Islands to judge what is good for our own people. These types of comments can damage the excellent relationships that exist between Australia and the Pacific Island countries, particularly Samoa.”
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has visited Samoa several times and opened the four lane road at Vaitele in 2016 and spoke highly of Samoa at the opening of Samoa’s new high commission offices in Yarralumla, Canberra in August last year.
In defending China’s aid to the Pacific and Samoa, Tuilaepa said it is much welcome assistance.
“In fact, China comes to our assistance on the basis of our requests, on what we know is suitable for Samoa.”
In Samoa, China has funded sports facilities, the airport terminals, the courts, hospital and central Government buildings that the PM said “provided modern facilities which considerably raise the excellent working environment for our officials, raising the quality of work and productivity. It improves the work ethic of our people and raises the beauty of our own city, which now becomes something of a modern city.”
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells also referred to the fact that these are very, very expensive in terms of the loans made to build them.
“In fact, the assistance given by China comes in both grants and concessionary loans. Concessionary loans from China mean the grant element is about 27% compared to the grant element of 35% on loans from the soft windows of the World Bank, the IDA, and the ADB. And this is something that we have been talking to the Chinese leaders about to increase the grant element of their loans to us – the very small Pacific Island states who are in the frontline of the fight against Climate Change, for we are the first to sink below the ocean when the sea-level rises.
“Several years ago, the leader of China met with the leaders of the Pacific in Fiji and he informed us, the members of the Pacific Island Forum having relationships with Beijing, of the availability of US$2 billion grants and US$2 billion soft loans for our developments. So there is quite a lot of assistance given on the basis of grants and it is in the concessionary grant element of the loans that we have been requesting the Government of China to reconsider for some of our projects.”
Tuilaepa also disagreed very strongly with the inference that China’s aid is misspent. “In saying that, I must also express my own appreciation for the assistance given by Australia and New Zealand to Samoa. What is given by the Chinese for the Pacific Island countries complements what is also provided by Australia and New Zealand and other sources like Japan.”
He said that China requests that Samoa recognize the One China Policy and that China observes Samoa’s sovereignty. “This has been the basis of our relationship with the Government of China for these past 43 years,” he said.
“To Samoa, China is the centre of the Chinese world and China is the most powerful trading nation in the world today.”
Tuilaepa said that he hopes the differences be patched up and this will be through the Pacific Islands Forum that meets every year and where Australia is represented.