For Immediate Release
17 February 2015

The Prime Minister’s response to the online article by
Lealaiauloto A.F. Tauafiafi, on Samoa’s jurisdiction:

“I’ve often said that reporters with small knowledge, cannot be trusted when they fish in deep waters.  It’s obvious that Lealaiauloto is completely out of his depth with his article about Samoa’s offshore jurisdiction.
To accurately report on specialist issues, such as international finance and offshore jurisdictions, requires a depth of knowledge and experience that takes years of commitment and understanding.  To source information from websites that haphazardly slap together outdated information to support their biased agenda, then regurgitate that information as a revelatory piece of investigative journalism is grossly irresponsible.

As a legislator, I am acutely aware that in law-making, where ever a ‘right’ is given, there is and always should be a correlating and commensurate responsibility.  I say this because all too often, we are seeing the media abuse the right to free speech by representing it as freedom of the press.

What part of free speech covers the incorrect, inflammatory and utterly irresponsible article by this reporter?
The inaccuracies, generalisations, exaggerations, and absolute disregard for the truth is staggering.  To carelessly string together a few unrelated quotes from across the internet about international finance and slap on a provocative headline shows the reporter doesn’t respect his profession!  If Lealaiauloto was a serious journalist he would have chosen one focus for his article, researched it properly and sought some expert advice in order to accurately inform his readership.  This is one of the fundamentals of good reporting.

Taking out of context what I said, in response to an interview about fishing licences, and reporting it as if it answered questions regarding our offshore industry and trying to make it fit his attempt at a ‘shock’ headline isn’t just wrong, it’s deceitful.

Lealaiauloto very misleadingly posted his article online on 15 February 2015, as if it was hot off the press!  However, with a bit of proper research and reading the Tax Justice Network report he based his article on, you’ll find that TJN published their findings in October 2013, and they based their own report on information from December 2012 – some 26 months ago!  That’s information that is over two years old!
A sensible reporter would have known that in this digital age of information, data is constantly changing and updating, and information more than 780 days old is no longer relevant.  News is supposed to be new.
Groups such as the TJN are a dime-a-dozen. They pander to the media.  A good reporter should be able to recognise bias and a predisposition towards a particular view.  These special-interest lobby groups are wide-ranging, from amateurs to professionals to raving fundamentalists.
As a lobby group interested in affecting tax policies worldwide, the TJN promotes its agenda by pushing the limits of legality and resource to further their cause.  If Lealaiauloto took the time to read the Financial Secrecy Index 2013 Methodology, he would find that the TJN itself concedes to the limits of their analysis.  They admit to their subjective assessment; to their reliance on reports that were not purpose-written for their methodology; to the fact that for the Global Weighting Scale part of calculating the FSI for Samoa they did not rely on true data, but instead on extrapolation.

TJN, unlike Lealaiauloto, attempt to meet their responsibility by clearly showing the context and constraints within which to read their findings. In that regard they openly admit to their limitations, which a responsible reader who is interested in the truth should always bear in mind.

TJN uses 15 Key Financial Secrecy Indicators to assess a country’s jurisdiction. These indicators are selected by the TJN, who again admit that there is no objective way to select the indicators.  Under each indicator there are a series of questions that are asked of the jurisdiction’s legislation and procedures. They also have an attendant credit/scoring system for these indicators and at the end of assessing the jurisdiction against all the 15 indicators they will have a total score. This is half of the FSI score for the jurisdiction. The other half comes from the Global Scale Weight which looks at the share of the market the jurisdiction holds. The Secrecy Scale is then cubed and is multiplied by the cube root of the Global Scale Weight to give the final FSI for the jurisdiction.
As you can see, as TJN itself concedes, there are many possible flaws in the Methodology and there is great room for error.  However, this is their particular method and I emphasise that it is their chosen method.  A method that demonstrably fails to account for all the ‘goings on’ peculiar to Samoa and our economic, cultural, social and geographical environment.  The world is not a one size fits all.

Government is doing its part, forging a way for us to be a world-contender, a relevant and current member of our global village. International Financial Services is a legitimate and extremely viable way for Samoa to aid her local economy, especially as a small island nation with limited resources, almost a world away from the world markets.

Misinformed articles such as the one by Lealaiauloto  directly contribute to lack of confidence in the media and shows a careless disregard for reporting standards that are in place for this very reason – so that issues requiring specialist, technical know-how, with far-reaching implications and effects, aren’t treated with a careless “copy and paste” attitude that does a great disservice to the International Finance Industry of Samoa and the efforts of the Government to develop this country and improve the standard of living for every single Samoan out there.”

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