Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Samoa is concerned about the future of remittances sent home to their families by members of Samoan diaspora – mostly in Australia, New Zealand and the US – which runs at around $A390 million a year.
The CBS Governor, economist and lawyer Maiava Atalina Emma Ainuu-Enari, says the Pacific is seen as a high-risk region for money laundering, particularly in the US, which caused tensions and scrutiny among correspondent banks and international monetary authorities.
These concerns saw Australian and New Zealand banks (including the ANZ, publisher of bluenotes) close many accounts of Money Transfer Operators (MTOs), which are typically cheaper than bank transfers.
Governor Enari argues decisions on each MTO should be made case-by-case rather than via wholesale closures of accounts, which has raised concerns over Samoans returning from overseas carrying more than the legal cash limit of 20,000 tala (about $A10,500).
She argues Samoan authorities have worked closely with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Anti-terrorist Financing (ATF) compliance programs, while Australian and New Zealand regulators looked at money transfers out of their jurisdictions.
"But really, it's a development-financing issue," Enari told bluenotes.
"It's our lifeline, that’s why we are so passionate about it. It's about 20 per cent of GDP."
The Governor argues the closing of MTO accounts also hurts the push for financial inclusion in the Pacific because they had a presence in rural areas where banks did not have their own infrastructure.
Her argument – which applies to other Pacific countries such as Fiji, Tonga, PNG and Vanuatu - fits in with changed guidelines issued by the Bank of International Settlements.
The BIS says a decline in the number of correspondent banking relationships is a concern because it may hinder international payments, or drive some payment flows underground, with consequences for growth, financial inclusion, and the broader financial system.
ANZ's regional country manager of Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands Bernie Poort says the international banks, including ANZ, need to do more to enable affordable remittance solutions for Pacific Island countries.
Poort says the intention was never to purposely exclude money transfer operators but to comply with international law around Know Your Customer rules and Anti-Money laundering.
"ANZ are focused on finding a cost effective solution from Australia and New Zealand and we can look forward to some positive announcements in this regard over coming months," he said at the time.
(Post my visit, on 30 June, ANZ announced it had reduced the fees for international money transfers from Australia to five pacific nations, including Samoa, from $A32 or $A18 depending on how the remittance was sent, to a standard $A9.)
The final word should go to Prime Minister Tuilaepa - who has held office since 1998 – which makes him the elder statesman of the South Pacific since the retirement of PNG founding father, Sir Michael Somare.
The PM will chair the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Samoa later this year, an event often marked by disagreement in years gone by.
Yet all Pacific countries and territories are united in the need for action on climate change, and were deeply upset by US President Donald Trump withdrawing his country from the Paris agreement.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa's message to Australia and New Zealand is to remember island countries are at the forefront of the fight against climate change.
It's a message which resonates across the Pacific and has grown louder with Fiji's presidency of the UN's COP23 climate change conference in Germany later this year.
"It means we are the first ones to go," the Prime Minster says. "When all these events do take place that follow the warming of the atmosphere and the sea level does rise, it means very likely over 50 per cent of our islands are sunk for good."
"Very likely there will be no more Tokelau, there will be no more Kiribati, there will be no more Tuvalu. And a lot of Tonga will be underwater."
"So, the vulnerability of the Pacific islands countries in the face of climate changes is still a major concern for all of us. And we would like New Zealand and Australia to give priority to climate change-related developments in their aid program over the next ten years."
And what about tourism?
"I have the same message,” he says. “This is the remaining paradise of the Pacific, come and see before it disappears."
Mark Skulley is one of Australia’s most-respected business journalists, a veteran of more than two decades at Fairfax Media including The Australian Financial Review. He travelled to Samoa with ANZ to run journalism classes for local journalists.