19 Jul 2013

Samoa awards Fugalei market reconstruction contract

5:21 pm on 19 July 2013

Samoa's cabinet has awarded the reconstruction of the Fugalei market on Upolu to the Chinese company, Qing Dao Construction.

The company has an office in Apia but recruits all its workers from mainland China.

The controversial rebuild of the market continues to be plagued with delays and has left local farmers and vendors without a common place to sell their goods.

Sara Vui-Talitu has more:

The editor of the Samoa Observer newspaper, Keni Lesa, says a mix of local and Chinese construction companies originally bid for the Fugalei contract, but of the two cheapest contractor bids, Qing Dao's was chosen.

"KENI LESA: These guys bring in everyone from China, obviously the money goes back to China. It is one of the biggest in Samoa now. I mean, you've got Qing Dao and then you've got another Chinese company called Shanghai Construction."

Keni Lesa says the rebuild of Upolu's main market has been badly managed and planned at a time when internal politics have also been at play among the ruling HRPP party.

KENI LESA: It has taken them a long time to get it together and of course, this, the Fugalei market stuff surfaced when there were frictions within the HRPP. And a lot of the HRPP membership are not very happy with how it has been handled so it has been a very, very controversial topic in Samoa.

Keni Lesa says the use of public funds for the first design of the new market that ended up being scrapped, along with the Minister of Finance spending hundreds of thousands of tala on refurbishing his office, hasn't helped public perception. He says the old market was demolished way too early last year. This week a prominent local businessman, Patrick Chan Mow, has opened a family-run produce market close to the centre of Apia for vendors in the interim. Our correspondent in Apia, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says the market was opened by Mr Chan Mow's 86 year old mother Lotte, who wanted to help local farmers.

AUTAGAVAIA TIPI AUTAGAVAIA: It's going to be another good market. According to the family at the opening, this whole project of the market was behind seeing people in the sun, and in the rain, when the government pulled down the Fugalei market and with the intention to rebuild a new market in the same place.

Patrick Chan Mow says the venue is clean, provides shelter and is part of a bigger commercial development that will soon include a bakery, butcher and supermarket. The brand new development has been designed by the New Zealand company, Pro Designers Architects Limited.

PATRICK CHAN MOW: It is a 20 million tala total project cost, the produce market and the supermarket, including the fit-outs. All the refrigeration, the equipment and even for the bakery, the butchery are all brought back from New Zealand.

Patrick Chan Mow says he knows many local contractors have complained about losing out on the contract to rebuild Fugalei.

PATRICK CHAN MOW: So there's a little bit of things pointing around now, with our local contractors not very happy with it. That why they've missed out and why give it to a foreign company, what about our local people and all that. It's a government decision.

The Chan Mow market is closer to town than the Vaitele market, which the government wanted vendors to use in the interim until the Fugalei market is rebuilt. But many locals say the Vaitele market is too far out of the town centre.