Corruption In Samoa – Introduction

I am asked by many of my visiting ‘Palagi’ guests whether Samoa is a corrupt country.

The answer is indeed, “Yes!” however there is much more to it than this simple acknowledgement.

Outsiders should consider two important factors before passing judgement.

1. Human nature is the same across the planet. There is no core difference between the underlying pride, racism, greed or selfishness in Samoa, New Zealand (the country of my birth), Nigeria or South Africa. People are people.

2. There are huge cultural differences between Samoa and the rest of the Western world and virtually everyone I know underestimates and fails to understand the significance of these differences.

Samoan social conduct fits uncomfortably between the values of the traditional ways (called Fa’a Samoa) and the Western, Westminster-style leadership and value-systems. It’s not a comfortable situation.

Ignoring the obvious and extreme cases, Corruption in Samoa can best described for the Western mindset as extreme nepotism. Leaders will look after their own, for that is their role in society. It is hard for foreigners to understand the importance of this aspect of the Samoan culture. People here EXPECT that their leaders will look after their people and give them favours. That’s the way things have ALWAYS worked in Samoa.

I’ll repeat this . . . this breeding ground of Corruption in Samoa contains the strong cultural background where ‘corruption’ is the normal way of living – it is expected – and philosophical values such as integrity, absolute truth (as opposed to relative truth) and Western-style laws all mix to influence human conduct.

It’s not an easy, black and white situation to report.

Samoa is a nation that has undergone substantial testing and change in the last couple of decades and presenting herself as a clean honest safe investment opportunity is a goal of the leadership. Some changes appear to have been good; some improvements have been made in some areas, but the point remains that writing or changing laws doesn’t change the heart of the people, especially those of many of the leaders out to look after themselves.

I have no interest to pull a person or a country down per se, so I always aim to write generously. Viewing Corruption in Samoa in a ‘generous’ light though doesn’t change the facts – it is still a nation in which corruption is expected. It does though affect the way that we look at and judge it.

While working daily to ‘lift’ Samoa and wanting it to see it progress, I have warnings:

· Foreign investors for example, would be wise to understand the local ways before investing one cent. Many an investor has fallen by the wayside over the years many having lost the shirt off their backs in the process. There are serious issues in Paradise when you are a person of means.

· Samoans do much to present themselves in a positive light, no matter the reality. This motivation to be seen in a good light runs at chronic levels and defensiveness especially when criticised from outside of their own is automatic and strong. The stereotypical response from Samoans when confronted with the sins of their nation, “Not all Samoans are like that!”

It has been my experience that this phrase is a cop-out and that a wide variety of crimes of corruption have tacit and active approval of the overwhelming majority of Samoans.

Many times the next perpetrator of trouble I’ve found to be the very person espousing this platitude!

Until Samoans can humble themselves and face the reality that is THEY that control the future (not their leaders) and that it is THEY who with their own arrogance and opportunism create the environment that their leaders take advantage or, then nothing will change and the ‘corrupt’ status quo will remain.

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