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Deceptive Schemes

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“The government is always saying they are trying to reduce the incidents of non communicable diseases. This is an excuse” – Palusalue Fa’apo IIThe Leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II, has accused Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s administration of using deceptive schemes to make money.

The allegation was made during the Tautua Samoa Party’s weekly press conference where Palusalue used the opportunity to urge the government to stop using people as pawns in their schemes to generate revenue.

Palusalue was speaking about taxes levied on alcoholic products, cigarettes and soft drinks.

While he and the Tautua Party agree about the need to come up with ways to reduce public consumption of such products to improve health, Palusalue took issue with the way the money is being collected and how it is being spent.

“In my opinion, any money raised from these taxes should go straight into improving the health system of Samoa,” he said.

“But that’s hardly the case here.

We don't know where this money goes to and what it is being used for.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa is in France and could be contacted for a comment yesterday.

According to the Opposition leader, however, not a year goes by without a price increase for beer, cigarettes and soft drinks.

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“The government is always saying they are trying to reduce the incidents of non communicable diseases,” he said.

“This is an excuse. The truth is that they are using it to raise revenues and they’ve found a good excuse that is easy enough to be accepted by people in these products.”

Palusalue said the tactic was very deceptive. He added that the money is being used elsewhere.

“So (this tax) is merely being used by the government as a money-making exercise. It’s very deceptive. The people can’t see how this money is being used to improve the health service.”

Palusalue said the government must be more transparent and such taxes should be directed to improve the state of the health system.

Another Tautua Samoa M.P., Lefau Harry Schuster, supported his leader.

Lefau did not object to the taxes levied on the products but he questioned the system being used.

According to Lefau, if the goal is to promote good health, then alcohol products with stronger alcohol content should cost more.

He pointed to the Philippines, saying that country has a very good system of dealing with the issue.

Most importantly, he said the money goes directly to the health system.

“They raise the price (of these products) every year,” Lefau said. “In doing so they achieve two things. First they stop people from smoking because they can’t afford it and second, they are telling the kids not to smoke because it is so expensive.”

Lefau said the government should impose taxes based on alcoholic; nicotine or sugar levels in a product because these are the ingredients that have an impact on a consumer’s health.

The Tautua’s deputy leader, Aeau Dr. Leavai supported his colleagues. He said all the money raised from such taxes should be used to promote better health for everyone.

Away from taxes levied on alcohol, cigarettes and soft drinks, Palusalue also raised questions about the decision to separate the Ministry of Health and the National Health Services (N.H.S).

“Has the separation been useful?” he asked. “Or has it been merely a waste of money to run two separate bodies?”

Palusalue said from what he has seen, the two bodies are duplicating a lot of functions.

“My understanding is that the Ministry of Health should be dealing with policies and regulations but what’s happening is that a lot of roles have been duplicated.

“And yet there is another law proposed to set up a separate Prevention unit. This will cost the country more money.

“The idea behind the separation is not only to improve the service to the country but also to save money from administration costs so that it is spent on prevention programmes.”

Lastly, Palusalue said he was grateful for the decision to cancel a radiothon that had been planned to raise funds for the CT Scan.

He said the fundraiser was a classic example of how the government would have used people to make money.

“I recall that in every budget for the past three years, there was always an amount allocated for the CT Scan. So every time we meet and when ask for an update on the CT scan, they gave us a lot of excuses.

“They said things like they are advertising for bidders. But then we were surprised when we heard they were going to have a radio thon.

“I’m so glad they didn't go ahead with it. It would have been utterly shameful for the government to ask members of the public to fund it.”

Palusalue said he had a quiet word with the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, where he advised him to cancel the fundraiser.

It was not possible to get a comment from Tuitama yesterday.

 

 

  

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