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Jumat, 21 Mei 2021

Incoming Samoan leader says China port plan unrealistic, will keep up pressure on Australia over climate change - ABC News

Samoa's expected new prime minister says a China-backed port development for the country is unrealistic, and that her approach to the economy will be based around sustainable decisions.

In a wide-ranging interview with the ABC, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa also said her government would keep up its pressure on Australia over climate change.

Work on a new wharf in Vaiusu Bay, dubbed a "China-funded project" by long-time prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, had been due to begin soon.

But Fiame, who is expected to form government on Monday when parliament sits, said her priorities would be elsewhere.

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"We're a small country. At the moment our ports, our airport meets the needs of a small country," Fiame told the ABC's Pacific Beat program.

"There does need to be work to improve our ports and entry points. But I'm not quite sure that huge infrastructure projects are necessarily the way to go."

Fiame to maintain pressure on Australia over climate change

Samoa has been in a political deadlock since an April 9 election that initially resulted in 25 seats each for the two major parties. 

The Human Rights Protection Party has dominated the country's politics for nearly 40 years, and its leader, 76-year-old Tuilaepa, has held office for more than 22 years — making him one of the world's longest-serving leaders.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has challenged the outcome of last month's election in the courts.

But Fiame hopes the court decision today will finally pave the way for her to form a government, which she said would focus on getting more of her country's people playing a role in economic growth.

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"We're very much looking at working with the private sector, the general population, to put investments where people can begin to build and make their own livelihoods," she said.

Tuilaepa has been a vocal critic of Australia's approach to climate change, and Fiame said Samoa's stance would not be changing under her leadership.

"It is a region that is heavily impacted by the effects of climate change."

Should Fiame become prime minister as expected, she would become only the second female leader in the Pacific islands, behind the Marshall Islands' Dr Hilda Heine.

"It is significant in terms of gender," said the long-serving politician.

"I'm accustomed to the work, although the attention will probably be a much newer experience because I've essentially stayed under the radar for most of the time."

More loans a last resort

Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, with short grey hair, wearing a red dress, with a red flower in her hair.
Fiame Naomi Mata'afa says Samoa will be reviewing its relationships with many countries.(

AFP: Fa'atuatua/ FAST

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A number of Pacific countries have found themselves caught up in a battle between the West and China for influence in the region.

China is the single largest creditor in Samoa, a country of 200,000 people, accounting for about 40 per cent, or some $200 million, of its external debt.

"We're very wary about moving on to [more] loans. That would be a last resort for us," Fiame said in relation to the country's post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

"Our general approach to the economy, especially as we start off, is to have a sustainable approach to the economy."

Despite plans to scrap the Vaiusu Bay wharf development, Fiame said her country's strong ties with Beijing would continue.

"The only thing I think [is] that as a new administration we have every possibility to review the activities of that relationship going forward.

"China is not the only partner or donor for our development effort, and I think we need to have a realistic review, not only of China but all of our development partners."

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2021-05-21 06:29:21Z
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