Opposition questions Government’s decision to buy Pacific Forum Line

Opposition leader Palusalue Faapo 11

By Unumoe Esera

APIA: WEDNESDAY 10 OCTOBER 2012: The Parliamentary Opposition Party, Tautua Samoa has questioned the Government’s decision to buy Pacific Forum Line.

Party Leader, Palusalue Faapo II asked why the Government would choose to buy PFL knowing that it is being put on the market as it was losing money.

“What cost are they buying it for?” asked Palusalue. This should be made clear to the public. “Where are they getting the money which they will use to buy PFL?”

Palusalue says that the Government cannot afford such expenses as the national debt is more than a billion tala. He said they are worried that PFL will end up broke like Polynesian Airlines, one of the Government’s investments which he says the public are still paying for as of now because of the huge amount of debt.

“If the Government buys PFL will it lower the cost of living for our people?” he asked.

He stated that Samoa has no exports overseas and are only receiving two to three containers of  imported goods from Fiji and we should export our containers to New Zealand. He said it is expensive to only bring containers of imported goods and send back only empty containers upon return. Palusalue queried how the Government is going to fund all this when even Non Government Organisations are operating on loans and assistance from overseas. He said that the Government decision to sell the telecommunications company Samoatel to BlueSky Samoa should not have been done as there was much profit to be made from it.

“How can Government make this decision without thorough research? A lot of taxpayers money will be spent on it only to receive a loss, and Government will not pay these debts the taxpayers will suffer. PFL is broke and whatever they have planned will not work. Major shareholders like Fiji and Papua New Guinea who have many exports will not even buy it as they have enough competition in shipping vessels serving these islands,” said Palusalue.

Palusalue is a former Minister of Telecommunications and Civil Aviation. He added that he did not know what benefits Samoa will receive from buying PFL. He said that the Prime Minister had said PFL will be used to ship manufactured goods for the Yazaki Company.

“How can they do that when there is no ship?” asked Palusalue.

The Deputy Leader Aeau Peniamina said the main concerns right now is for the environment, education, cost of living and agricultural development. With 92 per cent of the shares of PFL being bought by the Samoan government and only 8 per cent left he said it is not a cheap service running PFL. “If New Zealand has backed out of it then how can we as a small country buy it?” he asked.  He also reiterated that the Government disclose the full cost of buying these shares.

Levaopolo Talatonu, shadow Cabinet Minister for Works gave a little background about PFL. “Pacific Forum Line was setup by the Pacific to assist in providing containers and shipping goods and is a shipping company which all the Pacific Islands have a share in. At the moment there is no ship. The Forum Samoa II which was purchased by the Government is currently being used in Asia,” he said

The Forum Samoa II he explained was bought by Government in 2009 and chartered to PFL under the  Samoa Shipping Services.  He said by that time, PFL was broke and so it was not appropriate to charter it to them and instead chartered the ship to Ocean Pacific Asia Limited and a $1.6 million tala loan at Westpac Bank was used to purchase the Forum Samoa II.

“There are so many debts piling up and the Government should look to promote exports and local production companies to make products for export.”