By Lisa Williams-Lahari - firstname.lastname@example.org
Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi says he won't go back on new tax laws covering previously exempted church pastors because Government is already implementing them.
He says the time window for consultation and feedback has already come and gone.
Samoa's congregational church (EFKS) condemnation of the new tax measures has been widely reported in Samoa media, along with threats the moves will cost the current government dearly at the next general elections.
But the Prime Minister is resolute that the church general assembly vote to reject the tax should have been held in the six-month build-up to the passing of the act late last year.
Government expects to earn millions back from taxing pastors as part of the Samoa workforce in the same bracket as those earning over the 15,000 tala tax-free threshold.
During the debate it had been estimated some pastors in Samoa earn up to 200,000 tala annually.
One of the reasons government had wanted to tax pastors while church organisations remain tax free, was to bring in funding for more roading and infrastructure projects for villages across the country.
Churches are a common feature of village landscapes in Samoa, with congregations often taking great pride in lavishing their faith leaders with money, homes, vehicles, and household items.