China donated these cars to help Samoa with the hosting of the Pacific Forum last year
APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 05 MARCH 2018: Samoa should never fail to pay its debts. Because if all else fails, “the debts infuses the dignity of the country’s leaders.”
This was the response from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi when asked by the overseas media accompanying the New Zealand Prime Minister’s visit, how much is Samoa’s debt to China.
The question comes as New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters in alluding to China’s growing influence in the Pacific, said a number of countries had been intervening in the Pacific in ways that were “not helpful”.
“Our job is to ensure that the engagement of other countries in the Pacific is for the interests of the Pacific and the security and prosperity of the neighbourhood,” said Peters.
The question also comes at a time when much publicity had been given to countries indebted to China in the Carribean and as close as Vanuatu in the Pacific.
“So how much is Samoas’ debt to China?” the Prime Minister was asked.
“I’m sorry, I cannot give you now as I’m no longer the Minister of Finance and I’m getting old.” Then gave what he said was what his response to the same question recently.
“In our budget is Statutory Payments which gives priority to payment of our debts first. Because in the debt, the dignity of the leaders of the country is infused in the debt. So we should never fail in our debts obligation.
“Next (in the budget) is Current Expenditure so government does not stop, or never be short. After these deductions, we still have money for our on-going obligations and still have a balance over 100 million talā to pay for our development. Because it is very important, with your development expenditure every year, your GDP is sure to go up, not down.
“So you always have enough.”
Asked earlier about the increasing influence of China at the expense of New Zealand and Australia, Tuilaepa said everything was out in the open.
“I think this is something that many miss out on, that we have periodical consultations with our donor partners – the US, Japan and China. The next meeting, the 8th PALM with Japan is in May this year and Ive been in all. Two years ago we had consultations with India in Fiji, then New Delhi last year.
“For China, President Xi made out to the 8 countries of the Pacific (without relations with Taiwan) that China has earmarked for the next 5 years, US$2bn in grants and US$2bn in soft term loans for the Pacific Islands. It was all out in the open and transparent, these disclosures by China. So what we are following up, are the undertakings that were done in the open.”
Asked about some people’s concerns about the growing influence of China in the Pacific as not good?
“We are only interested in what was promised to us and we are following up in connection with our own development,” said Tuilaepa.