13 Sep 2013

Small businesses restricted from selling at Fugalei market, Apia

6:53 pm on 13 September 2013

Samoa's opposition party says the government has broken a promise to local businesses by making the soon-to-be rebuilt Fugalei market for farmers only.

Original plans for a two-storey market in the centre of Apia have been scrapped in favour of a single open dwelling with a car-park, costing about US$5 million, to be completed by next year.

Mary Baines reports:

The leader of Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Faapo II, says more than 100 small business owners' livelihoods are at risk.

"PALUSALUE FAAPO II: It's only for the agricultural people to sell their products. What we are concerned about is the livelihood of these small business people, having an agreement with the government that there will be space available for them to continue their businesses. These people depend on their businesses for their everyday living and so forth."

He says when the market was torn down last year, the government told shops, handicraft booths and food stalls that there would be space for them at the new market.

PALUSALUE FAAPO II: It was very hard for them when the market was pulled down. They've got nowhere to continue their business and they sacrificed, with the understanding that they will resume their businesses when the government built the new market.

Our correspondent in Apia, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, says he spoke to vendors who used to lease space at the old market.

AUTAGAVAIA TIPI AUTAGAVAIA: It's a big disappointment for them. Because the market is a very crowded place in the morning and after work, and that's where they get all these customers you know buying food and stuff from their small shops. Now because of the decision to pull down the old market and rebuild it, now they've been hit with another sad story - no more shops, no more food stalls, just crops.

He says some vendors are now in makeshift stalls at a temporary market opposite the location of the old market. But that market, on government land, is expected to be closed down once construction begins in the next few weeks. Autagavaia Tipi Autagavia says many small business owners cannot afford to sell at the privately owned markets around the city, which charge much more to lease a stall. And he says vendors think an alternative government-owned market in Vaitere is too far away.

AUTAGAVAIA TIPI AUTAGAVAIA: That market is still sitting here, a brand new one, at the industrial area, at Vaitere, with a few farmers there and a few business people operating there. Most of the brand new blocks there are closed. And the concern from those people who used to use the market is that it is too far away from town - not many people are coming here, there's not much business here. And they're absolutely right.

Mr Autagavia says the new market building is owned by the government's Accident Compensation Corporation. He says the general manager of ACC has not said why it is restricting the market to farmers, but has said that it would consider building facilities for shops if there was still a need after the market is built. The general manager of ACC, Malaeulu Lose Niumata, was not available for more comment. The president of the Samoa Farmers Association, Afamasaga Toleafoa, says a plan for a farmers-only market will not necessarily be good for business.

MALAEULU LOSE NIUMATA: If you're selling stuff, I think you would like to have as many people come to the area as possible - if not at first to buy agricultural produce, other things will bring them there. It would be good to be all put together so that we draw the customers to come in and do all their shopping.

Mr Toleafoa says it is likely that decisions are still being made about the market, and if opposition is strong enough, the government might change its plan.