Nominal shocks

Samoa, the tiny Pacific Ocean island state, is travelling through time to improve its economic prospects.

In a vote of confidence for the Asian century, the country has decided to shift the jagged International Date Line to its east at the end of this year, which will bring it a day closer to Asia and Australasia.

The clocks in Apia, the capital, are 21 hours behind Canberra but only four hours behind San Francisco.

That reverses a decision 119 years ago to move the line to the west, following lobbying by Samoa’s merchants who wanted better to accommodate business with trading ships from the US and Europe.

It is not the first overhaul of a long-standing convention by Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, prime minister, who in 2009 switched the nation from driving on the right to the left, to align it more closely with the practice in Australasia and Japan.

“In doing business with New Zealand and Australia we’re losing out on two working days a week,” Mr Tuilaepa said. “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.”

Australia and New Zealand combined account for more than half of Samoa’s imports and more than 85 per cent of total exports, which largely consist of coconut products and fish.

…However, the move has not been universally welcomed, particularly in tourism, as the island will no longer be the last place on earth to see sunset. It will be joining the countries that see the sunrise first.

“After the date change, it will just be another sunset, no longer that special,” said Andrew Tiatia, a tour guide.

Mr Tuilaepa, however, points to another advantage. By flying one hour from American Samoa, on the other side of the date line, it will be possible to celebrate the same day twice and mark birthdays or wedding anniversaries twice over.

I enjoy stories like this more than is reasonably justified.


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