Samoa looks set to try to change its time zone and move the country’s clocks forward by a day to be in line with Australia and New Zealand.
Two years ago, the government switched the side of the road on which Samoans drive and this year it reportedly plans to change the side of the dateline the country is on.
Samoan prime minister Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is quoted in online media as saying he wants to make it easier for Samoa to do business with Australasia.
He says Samoa is effectively losing two business days a week with the region by being on the eastern side of the date line.
But Samoans who do business with neighbouring American Samoa do not want to change sides – even though the prime minister says the two nations could use any time difference to lure tourists who may want to celebrate their birthday or anniversary twice, in countries just one hour apart by plane.
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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 U.S. 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.
“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.