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Talk about the problems a newly-independent state is confronted with.




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Chinese people say that the worst thing is to live in the time of changes. With a rich choice of possible ways of further development comes a bunch of problems as well and it is especially time as for the newly-independent states. I’d like to illustrate this on the example of Samoa.

The sound of progress frightens the Samoans. For most of their 50 years life time has stood still. They have worked the banana plantation and respected the custom that the family chiefs represented absolute authority.

They owned all the land communally, they elected a parliament and they administrated justice in each village, thus leaving few duties for the nation’s 219-man police force.

No doubt, Samoa is a poor country and changes must come, but the Samoans do not want them so fast. They do not want their children to go to New Zealand to look for big money, but to stay them and work the plantations as they always have done.

The confusion is shared by many of the Samoans – and undoubtedly by the people of other newly independent, developing nations as well. The capital is teeming with people wanting to help: experts from the USA, investors from Japan, analysts from Asia and civil engineers from New Zealand.

Already streets are being torn up for a new road system. The hospital is being rebuilt with a loan from New Zealand. A new Government hotel has opened to promote tourism – an industry the county is not quite sure it wants. Loans from banks will modernize the communications system. Japanese investors have opened a sawmill and are building houses. When these and many other development schemes are turned into reality and Western Samoa, one of the world’s poorest nations in cash terms, is forces into the 21st century, what is to become of its culture?

Most Samoans want the modern amenities, but they don’t want to throw away their culture. there is no easy answer because in many ways the culture retards development. The question people are asking is, what is a balance between the past and the future.

The tradition of communal land ownership stultifies individual incentive and has resulted in neglect of the land. The exodus to New Zealand – and the money the emigrants send home – create a false economy and results in thousands of Samoan families ignoring the land and living off the earnings of their expatriate children. They, together with thousands of other Samoans in New Zealand on temporary work visas, send home about 3 million a year. The money provides a boost to Western Samoa’s agricultural economy, but it also is inflationary, and the inflation rate has been 35 per cent in two years.



Nevertheless, Western Samoa has traveled a long way in the 12 years since independence. It has political stability and a people who are 90 per cent literate. It offers investors a cheap labour force, and a land that is 80 per cent uncultivated. And at the same time it offers visitors the most uncorrupted Polynesian culture left anywhere today.


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