Overview of Samoa
GOVERNMENT & ADMINISTRATION
Samoa has a Parliamentary democracy that is unicameral, consisting of 49 members of Parliament elected by citizens of 21 years and over every five (5) years. Its written Constitution provides for a Head of State, a Prime Minister and a Cabinet of Ministers, and a Legislative Assembly. There are two (2) major political parties both of whom strongly support our International Finance Centre. The ruling party, the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) has been in power for more than ten (10) years is testament of Samoa’s political stability which is an attractive feature to foreign investors.
Samoa holds international membership of various international bodies namely, the British Commonwealth, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and an associate member of the European Economic Community (EEC). Through SIFA it holds membership of the Group of International Finance Centres Supervisors (GIFCS), Group of International Insurance Centre Supervisors (GIICS), Corporate Registers Forum (CRF) and the Peer Review Group (PRG) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
SIFA being the provider of international financial services is a quasi-government corporation thus its operation is governed by its principal Act namely, the Samoa International Finance Authority Act 2005 and abides by government policies and guidelines.
Samoa’s international finance centre is administered and regulated by the Samoa International Finance Authority (“SIFA”). Being in existence for more than twenty (20) years under the auspices of the Central Bank of Samoa, it has proven to be a successful and premier international finance centre in the South Pacific Region amidst perpetual and stringent changes on international regulations and standards.
Established as a government corporation in 2005 by the Samoa International Finance Authority Act2005 (SIFA 2005) SIFA has endeavoured to provide the most up to date wealth management solutions to prospective and current investors seeking to establish and maintain structures for their benefits.
Information and services described herein shall be used as a guide only and those seeking to utilise these services are advised to seek professional advice or contact SIFA via the mediums provided for detailed information.
Samoan laws have their foundations in English and Commonwealthstatutory and common law. Whilst the core Acts that form the basis of the International Finance Centre are based on English law, they include laws adapted from other financial centres, updated against modern user trends and streamlined to provide the most progressive and acceptable laws for any international finance centre. The Samoan Courts are well aware of the jurisprudence surrounding offshore matters thus take a holistic and conservative approach to matters of interpretation under the various international financial services laws.
The highest court of Samoa is the Court of Appeal which sits twice a year by respective members of the Australian and New Zealand bench. The Supreme Court is headed by a Samoan Chief Justice and has three (3) other local Justices. There is a District Court with a Family Court Branch which deals with matters not less than $1000.00 SAT as well as Appeals from the Lands and Titles Court.
LOCATION & HISTORY
Samoa is literally translated as “Sa” meaning sacred and “Moa” meaning Centre. i.e. The sacred centre of the universe. Likewise it is physically located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii in the north and New Zealand in the south, and is often referred to as the heart of Polynesia.
Samoa’s European history began with its discovery by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen in 1722 with accelerated involvement of European missionaries and traders in the mid-19th century. Samoa became a German colony following the Treaty of Berlin in 1899 when the United States of America took control of Eastern Samoa (now known as American Samoa) while Western Samoa was adopted to separate the islands.
Under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, Samoa was awarded to New Zealand as a League of Nations mandate. After World War II, Samoa became a United Nations Trust Territory under New Zealand administration. Samoa with a current population of 187,820 became the 1st island in the South Pacific to gain independence in 1962.
ECONOMY & MONETARY SYSTEM
The Samoan economy is traditionally based on agriculture with a high dependence on external personal remittances and external development aid. Despite the challenging environment from 2002-06, the economy grew at an average rate of 3.5percent per annum.
With modernisation, Samoa has diversified its economic base with the manufacturing and service sectors now becoming significant contributors to GDP, driven mainly by the leading industries “Commerce”, “Transport and Communication”, “Construction”, “Business and Finance Service” sectors. The expanding tourism sector and diversification of exports have improved the balance of payments outlook significantly.
The exchange rate of the local currency, the Tala (SAT), is measured against the basket of currencies of its six major trading partners. The basket is reviewed periodically to ensure that exchange rates are in line with changing economic and market conditions. The Central bank’s exchange rate policy is aimed primarily at supporting the balance of payments, whilst ensuring that Samoa maintains its competitiveness vis a vis its major trading partners. At 1st August 2014, $ 1US equalled approximately SAT$2.23. Transactions in the International Finance Centre are conducted in the USD currency.
There is general optimism and relatively high confidence about Samoa’s economic prospects buttressed by positive assessments conducted by international organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) regarding Samoa’s policy planning and management capabilities and the medium term economic prospects for the economy.
INFRASTRUCTURE & COMMUNICATIONS
Samoa’s local infrastructure is well developed. The latest infrastructural developments include major innovations in airline transportation and communications. The modern international airport is located approximately 35 km from Apia on the main island of Upolu. Virgin Samoa, Polynesian Airlines, Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways operate international flights from Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, Hawaii, Fiji, American Samoa and other countries of the world into Samoa.
Samoa’s ability to compete efficiently in global markets especially in the communications and service sectors has been greatly enhanced by the newly developed wireless 3G broadband connectivity.
Being the 2014 host of the 3rd Small Island Development States Forum, Samoa has undergone further reconstruction work for public roads, the Apia harbour and the newly constructed Marina Bay to cater for this event.
Shipping services are regular to and from Europe, West Coast USA, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, etc. The international telephone system is first class and is directly accessible by direct dial under the country code (685).
EXEMPTION FROM TAXATION & EXCHANGE CONTROLS
Entities registered under any of the laws administered by SIFA except for Trustee Companies are exempted (whether direct or indirect) on their profits or gains, or upon transactions and contracts from taxation. There are also no currency or exchange control regulations to the taking or sending of any foreign currency out of Samoa by any of the offshore entities via the banking sector.
Confidentiality of information pertaining to users of its international finance centre is exclusively provided for under SIFA’s laws. There are also gateway provisions in its relevant laws to balance confidentiality against any potential misuse or abuse of the solutions SIFA offers via the Proceeds of Crime, Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the Money Laundering Prevention Acts 2007.