Samoa’s debt levels manageable, says Sili

Samoa's debt levels manageable, says Sili. Picture: SAMOA OBSERVER

APIA, 28 NOVEMBER 2018 (SAMOA OBSERVER) – The Minister for Finance Sili Epa Tuioti has assured the public that Samoa’s debt levels are manageable and there is nothing to worry about.

Pacific Island nations’ debts to foreign donors have made headlines in recent weeks and caught the eye of various international commentators. But Sili appeared unfazed by the controversy and told Samoa Observer in an interview  that the country can afford to repay the loans.

“As Minister of Finance, I can confidently say that Samoa can afford to pay off their loans,” he said.

To date the Government’s total debt stands at $1.1 billion (US$422 million) with $416 million (US$160 million) out of that total owed to China. This makes China the country’s biggest creditor with the debt higher than what Samoa currently owes the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and Japan.

The debt figures were released by the Samoa Bureau of Statistics (SBS) Financial Statistics for the December 2017 quarter and made public by the Central Bank of Samoa.

The Minister told this newspaper that funds are set aside by the Government annually to go towards debt servicing.

“Our budget every year we have set aside funds to pay on interest on all our loans with ADB, World Bank and China,

There is no reason why we should not be able to pay and for Samoa as well, we only borrow for the essential need, such as the economical social infrastructure that is going to help us for the social economic wellbeing of our people to try and drive our economy’s growth.”

The key question has always been one of affordability, but Sili yesterday put that issue to bed when he said the Government is monitoring its debts and making payments.

“For me as Minister of Finance, where we are today, we are able to pay the debts. What about the next 20 years? It will be the same and it would be irresponsible for us to borrow beyond our means certainly as Minister of Finance, we are keeping a close eye on the debt level.

“Were not going to borrow money for something we don’t need, we are also keen to make sure we borrow for what we need, not what we want,” he added.

Long-term planning is essential for Samoa’s government, which the Minister says is the reason why they have plans for the next 20-30 years.

“We consider what the future holds, what would Samoa be like in the next 20-30 years, and we build the infrastructure that is going to cater for and meet that demand.

“Like the airport, we don’t want to spend millions and then next five years tear it down and rebuild—that is not proper planning. We are looking at the long run, be confident in what we can do, and we borrow what we can afford,” he added.

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