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Opposition Leader opens up debate on Samoa Airways losing business history

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 28 JUNE 2023: The Opposition Leader, Lauofo Pierre Lauofo has requested Government to contract an aircraft to resume the airlines jet service on a temporary license and opened the door to the national airline’s poor business history.

Lauofo argued that since the re-opening of international borders after COVID-19 lockdown, the number of tourists to Samoa has increased. However, Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways are benefiting as their airlines are flying the tourists in and out of Samoa.

He said that benefit could have been Samoa’s if she had her own aircraft.

“Invest in an aircraft and issue a temporary license for now and consider reducing the airfares,” said Lauofo.

Former Cabinet Minister who resigned from the Human Rights Protection Party, Tu’u’u Anasi’i Leota  interrupted and stated that nothing good came out of HRPP’s 40 years of leadership and referred to the airline.

Tu’u’u reminded Lauofo of the Polynesian Airlines failed history, the failed partnership with Virgin Blue and the current Samoa Airways debt is now on the shoulders of the current Government.

Lauofo was quick to remind that Tu’u’u was the Minister responsible for the Virgin Blue deal that failed.

Tu’u’u, who was the Minister for Customs & Revenue at the time, admitted that he was a Cabinet Minister but the failure was due to the government not heeding advice.

Samoa Airways $600m debt
The Minister for Finance, Mulipola Anarosa Ale Moilo’o joined the debate and reminded Lauofo of Samoa Airways current $600 million debt.

“When this government came in, the Samoa Airways debts were piling up, and we are now trying to pay them,” said the Minister of Finance.

The loan is guaranteed by the Unit Trust of Samoa (UTOS) and other government agencies who are contributing to the loan.

Lauofo argued that if the government had not returned the Boeing 737-800 leased by the previous government it would have assisted to pay the debt.

Government will not invest in a $600 million debt
The Minister responsible for Samoa Airways, Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo told Parliament that the Government was not investing in a $600m debt.

The HRPP government leased a Boeing 737-800 from a Dutch company and the deal was signed a few weeks before the April 2021 general elections. The aircraft parked at an airport in Australia and could not fly for safety issues but the government was still paying the lease.

The Minister for Civil Aviation, Olo Fiti Vaai clarified the reason why the government opted to return the aircraft because it was not safe and did not satisfy the Pacific Aviation Safety Organisation’s (PASO) requirements for a license to fly.

Faleata No 4 MP Ale Vena Ale intervened and said the government is injecting $10 million every year to the Samoa Airways old debt and suggested to leave it with the government.

Lauofo however maintained his position and urged Government to reconsider then the Speaker intervened and asked the Opposition Leader to move to another issue as his time was almost up.