Samoa set to change its time zone

The Cabinet of Samoa last week approved a plan to move the islands of that nation to the western side of the international dateline. But the islands that make up American Samoa, a US territory, will remain to the east of the dateline. The islands are a little more than 80 miles apart.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said the change is necessary to facilitate business, as his country conducts most of its commerce with New Zealand, Australia, China and Southeast Asian nations. Two years ago he changed the side of the road his country drives on.

“In doing business with New Zealand and Australia we’re losing out on two working days a week. While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand and when we’re at church Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane,” Tuilaepa is quoted as saying in the government-owned newspaper Le Savali, reprinted on Samoanews.com.

Samoa and American Samoa were moved east of the dateline in 1892, according to the Le Savali report.

“A local trader lobbied successfully for the change as it was convenient for trading ships from Europe and the United States that were servicing Samoa at the time,” the prime minister is quoted as saying.

But besides helping Samoa conduct business, Tuilaepa says it could bring tourists to American Samoa, too.

“I think there will be a very exciting experience and it is an experience that we could exploit jointly for tourist promotion, especially with the need to have a holiday, have a birthday celebrated in western Samoa, and then hop over and have the same birthday celebrated in eastern Samoa, that will be very exciting,” he told ABC Radio Australia.

Tuilaepa told Radio Australia that the change has been cleared with international time zone authorities. It awaits expected approval in Samoa’s Parliament.

Scott Snowden

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