Independent State of Samoa
Area: 2,934 sq. km. (1,133 sq. mi.) in two
main islands plus seven smaller ones.
Cities: Capital (pop. 34,000)--Apia.
Terrain: Mountainous with narrow coastal plain.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Samoan.
Population (July 2004 est.): 177,714. Age
structure--28.3% under 15; 6.3% over 65.
Growth rate: -0.25% (mainly due to emigration).
Ethnic groups: Samoan 92.6%, Euronesian (mixed
European and Polynesian) 7%, European 0.4%.
Religion: Christian 99.7%.
Languages: Samoan, English.
Health: Life expectancy--male 67.64 yrs.;
female 73.33 yrs. Infant mortality rate--29.72/1,000.
Work force: Agriculture--64%; services--30%.
Type: Mix of parliamentary democracy and
Independence (from New Zealand-administered UN
trusteeship): January 1, 1962.
Constitution: January 1, 1962.
Branches: Executive--head of state
(incumbent serves for life; successors will be
elected), prime minister (head of government),
parliament (Fono). Judicial--Supreme
Court and supporting hierarchy.
Major political parties: Human Rights Protection
Party (HRPP), Samoa Democratic United Party (SDUP),
and Samoa Party (SP).
GDP: $284.3. million.
GDP per capita (nominal): $1,600.
GDP composition by sector: Services 59%,
industry 28%, agriculture 14%.
Industry: Types--tourism, coconuts, small
scale manufacturing, fishing.
Trade: Exports--$15.9 million: coconut
products, fish, (processing of automotive
components). Export markets--New Zealand,
Australia, U.S. (includes American Samoa).
Imports--$30.3 million: food and beverages,
industrial supplies. Import sources--New
Zealand, Australia, U.S. ($4.73 million), Fiji.
External debt: $151.5 million (90% is owed to
Currency: tala (or Samoan dollar).
GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE
Samoa consists of the two large islands of Upolu
and Savai'i and seven small islets located about
halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the
Polynesian region of the South Pacific. The main
island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters
of Samoa's population and its capital city of
Apia. The climate is tropical, with a rainy
season from November to April.
The Fa'a Samoa, or traditional Samoan way,
remains a strong force in Samoan life and
politics. Despite centuries of European
influence, Samoa maintains its historical
customs, social systems, and language, which is
believed to be the oldest form of Polynesian
speech still in existence. Only the Maoris of
New Zealand outnumber the Samoans among
Migrants from Southeast Asia arrived in the
Samoan islands more than 2,000 years ago and
from there settled the rest of Polynesia further
to the east. Contact with Europeans began in the
early 1700s but did not intensify until the
arrival of English missionaries and traders in
the 1830s. At the turn of the 20th century, the
Samoan islands were split into two sections. The
eastern islands became territories of the United
States in 1904 and today are known as American
Samoa. The western islands became known as
Western Samoa (now just Samoa), passing from
German control to New Zealand in 1914. New
Zealand administered Western Samoa under the
auspices of the League of Nations and then as a
UN trusteeship until independence in 1962.
Western Samoa was the first Pacific Island
country to gain its independence.
In July 1997 the Constitution was amended to
change the country's name from Western Samoa to
Samoa. Samoa had been known simply as Samoa in
the United Nations since joining the
organization in 1976. The neighboring U.S.
territory of American Samoa protested the move,
feeling that the change diminished its own
Samoan identity. American Samoans still use the
terms Western Samoa and Western Samoans.
The 1960 Constitution, which formally came into
force with independence, is based on the British
pattern of parliamentary democracy, modified to
take account of Samoan customs. Samoa's two high
chiefs at the time of independence were given
lifetime appointments to jointly hold the office
of head of state. Malietoa Tanumafili II has
held this post alone since the death of his
colleague in 1963. His eventual successor will
be selected by the legislature for a 5-year
The unicameral legislature (Fono) contains 49
members serving 5-year terms. Forty-seven are
elected from territorial districts by ethnic
Samoans districts; the other two are chosen by
non-Samoans on separate electoral rolls.
Universal suffrage was extended in 1990, but
only chiefs (matai) may stand for election to
the Samoan seats. There are more than 25,000
matais in the country, about 5% of whom are
women. The prime minister is chosen by a
majority in the Fono and is appointed by the
chief of state to form a government. The prime
minister's choices for the 12 cabinet positions
are appointed by the chief of state, subject to
the continuing confidence of the Fono.
The judicial system is based on English
common law and local customs. The Supreme Court
is the court of highest jurisdiction. Its chief
justice is appointed by the chief of state upon
the recommendation of the prime minister.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--His Highness MALIETOA Tanumafili
Head of Government--Prime Minister TUILA'EPA
Ambassador to the United States--Ali'ioaga
Samoa maintains its diplomatic representation
in the United States at 800 2nd Avenue, Suite
400D, New York, NY 10017; tel: 212-599-6196.
Since 1982 the majority party in the Fono has
been the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP).
HRPP leader Tofilau Eti Alesana served as prime
minister for nearly all of the period between
1982 and 1998, when he resigned due to health
reasons. Tofilau Eti was replaced by his deputy,
Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi.
Parliamentary elections were held in March
2001. The Human Rights Protection Party, led by
Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi, won 30 of the 49
seats in the current Fono. The Samoa National
Development Party, led by Le Mamea Ropati, is
the main opposition. A new political party,
Samoa Party, was launched recently.
The Samoan economy is dependent on agricultural
exports, tourism, and capital flows from abroad.
The effects of three natural disasters in the
early 1990s were overcome by the middle of the
decade, but economic growth cooled again with
the regional economic downturn. Long-run
development depends upon upgrading the tourist
infrastructure, attracting foreign investment,
and further diversification of the economy.
Two major cyclones hit Samoa at the beginning
of the 1990s. Cyclone Ofa left an estimated
10,000 islanders homeless in February 1990;
Cyclone Val caused 13 deaths and hundreds of
millions of dollars in damage in December 1991.
As a result, GDP declined by nearly 50% from
1989 to 1991. These experiences and Samoa's
position as a low-lying island state punctuate
its concern about global climate change.
Further economic problems occurred in 1994
with an outbreak of taro leaf blight and the
near collapse of the national airline Polynesian
Airlines. Taro, a root crop, traditionally was
Samoa's largest export, generating more than
half of all export revenue in 1993. But a fungal
blight decimated the plants, and in each year
since 1994 taro exports have accounted for less
than 1% of export revenue. Polynesian Airlines
reached a financial crisis in 1994, which
disrupted the tourist industry and eventually
required a government bailout.
The government responded to these shocks with
a major program of road building and
post-cyclone infrastructure repair. Economic
reforms were stepped up, including the
liberalization of exchange controls. GDP growth
rebounded to over 6% in both 1995 and 1996
before slowing again at the end of the decade.
The service sector accounts for more than
half of GDP and employs approximately 30% of the
labor force. Tourism is the largest-single
activity, more than doubling in visitor numbers
and revenue over the last decade. More than
85,000 visitors came to Samoa in 1999,
contributing over $12 million to the local
economy. One-third came from American Samoa, 28%
from New Zealand, and 11% from the United
States. Arrivals increased in 2000, as visitors
to the South Pacific avoided the political
strife in Fiji by traveling to Samoa instead.
The primary sector (agriculture, forestry,
and fishing) employs nearly two-thirds of the
labor force and produces 17% of GDP. Important
products include coconuts and fish.
Industry accounts for over one-quarter of GDP
while employing less than 6% of the work force.
The largest industrial venture is Yazaki Samoa,
a Japanese-owned company processing automotive
components for export to Australia under a
concessional market-access arrangement. The
Yazaki plant employs more than 2,000 workers and
makes up over 20% of the manufacturing sector's
total output. Net receipts amount to between
$1.5 million and $3.03 million annually,
although shipments from Yazaki are counted as
services (export processing) and therefore do
not officially appear as merchandise exports.
New Zealand is Samoa's principal trading
partner, typically providing between 35% and 40%
of imports and purchasing 45%-50% of exports.
Australia, American Samoa, the U.S., and Fiji
also are important trading partners. Samoa's
principal exports are coconut products and fish.
Its main imports are food and beverages,
industrial supplies, and fuels.
The collapse of taro exports in 1994 has had
the unintended effect of modestly diversifying
Samoa's export products and markets. Prior to
the taro leaf blight, Samoa's exports consisted
of taro ($1.1 million), coconut cream
($540,000), and "other" ($350,000). Ninety
percent of exports went to the Pacific region,
and only 1% went to Europe. Forced to look for
alternatives to taro, Samoa's exporters have
dramatically increased the production of copra,
coconut oil, and fish. These three products,
which combined to produce export revenue of less
than $100,000 in 1993, now account for over $3.8
million. There also has been a relative shift
from Pacific markets to European ones, which now
receive nearly 15% of Samoa's exports. Samoa's
exports are still concentrated in coconut
products ($2.36 million worth of copra, copra
meal, coconut oil, and coconut cream) and fish
($1.51 million) but are at least somewhat more
diverse than before.
Samoa annually receives important financial
assistance from abroad. The more than 100,000
Samoans who live overseas provide two sources of
revenue. Their direct remittances have amounted
to $12.1 million per year recently, and they
account for more than half of all tourist
visits. In addition to the expatriate community,
Samoa also receives roughly $7.57 million
annually in official development assistance from
sources led by China, Japan, Australia, and New
Zealand. These three sources of
revenue--tourism, private transfers, and
official transfers--allow Samoa to cover its
persistently large trade deficit.
The Samoan Government is generally conservative
and pro-Western, with a strong interest in
regional political and economic issues. At
independence in 1962, Samoa signed a Treaty of
Friendship with New Zealand. This treaty
confirms the special relationship between the
two countries and provides a framework for their
interaction. Under the terms of the treaty,
Samoa can request that New Zealand act as a
channel of communication to governments and
international organizations outside the
immediate area of the Pacific islands. Samoa
also can request defense assistance, which New
Zealand is required to consider (Samoa does not
maintain a formal military). Overall Samoa has
strong links with New Zealand, where many
Samoans now live and many others were educated.
The Samoan Government was an outspoken critic
of the French decision to resume nuclear weapons
testing in the South Pacific in 1995. An
indefinite ban was placed on visits to Samoa by
French warships and aircraft. Large-scale street
demonstrations were held in Apia. The French
tests concluded in early 1996.
Samoa participated in a first round of
negotiations with its Pacific Island neighbors
for a regional trade agreement in August 2000.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador (accredited to both New Zealand and
Samoa; resident in Wellington)--William P.
Charge d'Affaires--Timothy W. Harley
The U.S. Embassy is located on the 5th Floor
of the Accident Compensation Board (ACB)
Building, Beach Road, Apia. Its mailing address
is P.O. Box 3430, Apia. Phone:  21631.