Samoa and Tokelau have decided to take the day off, but not in the traditional sense. The tiny Pacific nations will be moving to the other side of the international dateline at midnight tonight, jumping 24 hours ahead in time and eliminating December 30th from their calendars this year.
The move is largely an attempt to streamline business dealings with neighboring Pacific nations such as Australia, New Zealand and China. ”In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we’re losing out on two working days a week,” Samoan Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi said in a statement. “While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand, and when we’re at church on Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.”
Samoa has been on the Eastern side of the dateline since 1892 when U.S. traders persuaded local Samoan authorities to align the country’s time with nearby U.S.-controlled American Samoa and the U.S. to assist their trading with California. But given today’s trade patterns, the government no longer feels this makes sense.
“Today we do a lot more business with New Zealand and Australia, China and Pacific Rim countries such as Singapore,” the prime minister told the Associated Press, adding that his latest idea will make commerce with the region “far, far easier.”
Tokelau’s parliament, the Tokelau General Fono, recently voted to go ahead with the change as well. The Ulu or Chief of Tokelau endorsed the decision, telling Radio New Zealand international that he hopes “that the people will go to sleep on Thursday night and wake up the next day, Saturday, the 31st of December, without any huge changes.”
The Samoan government has announced that although many will be missing a day of work as a result of the move ahead, anyone who was scheduled to work Friday will still receive a full day’s pay.
The Associated Press contributed to this report