Federated States of Samoa

Samoa, with a population of 200,000, does not maintain a formal military. Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa) consists of two large islands, Upolu and Savai'i, and several small ones. It is a separate country from the US-administered American Samoa. In 1997 'Western' was dropped from the nation's name, and it became known as Samoa. It has a tropical climate with a rainy season from November to April.

The political and security environment in Samoa is peaceful, with instances of political violence rare. The risk of civil disorder is low. There is no civil strife or insurrection. There are no significant border disputes at risk of military escalation.

Samoa is a Constitutional Monarchy with a UK-style cabinet government modified to take account of Samoan customs. The constitution provides for a Head of State, a Prime Minister and a Cabinet of Ministers, who comprise the Executive Council, and a Legislative Assembly. Malietoa Tanumafili II held office for life, but the current and future Heads of State are elected by Parliament for a five-year term.

The Samoa Police Department, under the Ministry of Police and Prison Services, maintains internal security. Local councils enforce rules and security within individual villages. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving police. Insufficient capacity limited police effectiveness.

Samoa is a geographically compact country in the South Pacific with a population of about 200,000, a recorded gross domestic product per capita of $4,212 in 2013, and a land area of 2,820 square kilometers. The two main islands—Savai’i and Upolu—account for almost all the land area. Samoa’s small size makes it difficult to achieve economies of scale and production, although its compactness facilitates internal freight distribution and public service delivery. Samoa faces challenges typical of small island economies, including geographic isolation, limited human and financial resources, a narrow economic base, and underdeveloped markets. The economy is heavily dependent on agricultural exports and fisheries, and imports of fuel and basic commodities. Samoa is isolated from major centers of trade and commerce, resulting in high international transport costs. In the Doing Business 2015 report, Samoa ranked 80th out of 189 economies in the ease of trading across borders.

Samoa's economy has traditionally been dependent on development assistance, family remittances from overseas, agriculture, and fishing. The service sector accounts for around 60% of GDP with tourism the largest single activity. Only 12% of the total population in Samoa is engaged in formal paid employment. Two thirds of the labor force is absorbed by "subsistence" village agriculture. A determined program of economic reforms initiated during the 1990s helped earn Samoa the reputation as the Pacific's model economy and placed the Samoan economy among the fastest growing of the Pacific Islands. Economic growth over the period of 2000-2005 averaged 4%, driven by increased public investment, enhanced tourism earnings, and an increase in agricultural production.

There are no international, non-governmental "watchdog" organizations represented locally, and the country was ranked 50th out of 175 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014, the latest year for which information is available.

There is a high level of religious observance and continued strong societal pressure at village and local levels to participate in church services and other activities, and to support church leaders and projects financially. In some denominations, financial contributions often totaled more than 30 percent of family income.

In the past, disputes between villages and the central government have led to protests, road blocks, and hostility between the police and villagers. Travelers should be aware of their surroundings as demonstrations can sometimes escalate into violence.

Buses are slow, crowded, uncomfortable, undependable, and rarely used by visitors. Buses in the main city of Apia are reasonably priced and readily available. Most run from 6 a.m.–6 p.m. Buses to rural villages are often crowded and generally uncomfortable but usually reliable. Taxis are plentiful and the fare can be split between riders. Buses in rural areas follow a timetable, unless there is a falavelave (special function or event).

Samoa previously drove on the right-hand side of the road, but in September 2009 switched to driving on the left (British) side. All cars now imported are right-hand drive.

Urban roads in Apia and the main roads circumnavigating and crossing the island are all generally kept in fair condition, although bumps and potholes are common. Side streets tend to be gravel or dirt and their condition varies considerably, particularly during the rainy season when ruts and bumps develop.

Roads outside Apia are often narrow, winding, relatively steep, with narrow or no shoulders, and poorly lighted. Pedestrians as well as vehicles and livestock regularly travel these roads. Due to poor and deteriorating road conditions, night driving on unlit rural roads can be dangerous and should be avoided if possible.

Roads in Samoa often traverse small streams. These streams can become swollen and dangerous with little warning. Vehicles should never enter a stream if the roadbed is not visible or if the water’s depth is more than the vehicle’s clearance.

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