What Is the WST (Samoan Tala)?

The WST (Samoan tala) is the national currency for the Independent State of Samoa, not to be confused with American Samoa. The WST, represented in writing using the symbol WS$, SAT, ST or T, subdivides into 100 sene. The word "tala" is the Samoan equivalent to the English word "dollar" and "sene" to the English word cents.

The Central Bank of Samoa regulates and issues the Samoan Tala (WST). The bank manages the exchange rate of the tala with foreign currencies and supervises other commercial banks. As of late 2020, a tala was equivalent to $0.38 in U.S. dollars. The exchange rate tends to hold relatively steady, with the rates falling between $0.38 to $0.46 since 2010.

Key Takeaways

  • The WST (Samoan Tala) is the national currency for the Independent State of Samoa.
  • The Central Bank of Samoa issues the Samoan Tala (WST), regulates it, and manages its exchange rate with foreign currencies. 
  • As of late 2020, a tala was equivalent to $0.38 in U.S. dollars. The exchange rate tends to hold relatively steady, with the rates falling between $0.38 to $0.46 since 2010.

Understanding the WST (Samoan Tala)

Before gaining independence from New Zealand, Samoa used the banknotes of New Zealand. Five years after receiving freedom, the Bank of Western Samoa issued the first tala banknotes in 1967. The tala pegged to the New Zealand dollar at par until 1975, when it changed to float based on supply and demand.

In 1985, the Central Bank of Samoa replaced the Bank of Western Samoa as the country's central bank. In 1990, the bank issued new 50 and 100 tala bills and discontinued the one tala note.

The country circulates one and two tala coins, as well as 10, 20, and 50 sene coins. In 2011, the Central Bank of Samoa reissued the coinage, minted by the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra, with new images depicted. The coins are smaller than their predecessors and have new shapes to reduce the cost of production. The most common paper banknotes include the two, five, 10, 20, 50, and 100 talas.

Economic Backing for the Samoa Tala

The islands that comprise the Independent State of Samoa lay in the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia. This ancient seafaring culture, with roots going back 3,000 years, saw their first Europeans in the early 1700s.

German companies created cocoa and coconut processing plans on one island, the United States used others for shipping, and the British also had businesses based there. These competing interests resulted in a series of civil wars of the aboriginal peoples as the three world powers struggled for control. In the end, the U.S. and Germany divided the islands. 

By the end of World War I, New Zealand controlled the islands as a trustee. This oversight would continue until 1962. The native population resented the colonial rule and pointed to mismanagement as the cause of inflation, and began a non-violent resistance. Independence came to the country as they signed the Western Samoa Act of 1961, and became the first Pacific island country to gain independence.

The government amended the constitution and changed the country's name to the Independent State of Samoa in 1997.

After independence, Samoa's economy depended on the export of agricultural products, primarily the taro root. A fungus blight destroyed the crop, and now exports focus on cocoa beans and coconut products such as oil and cream. Tourism provides one-quarter of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Samoa has a stated goal of 100% renewable energy production and hopes to reach that level by 2021. According to the 2017 World Bank data, Samoa experiences an annual GDP growth of 2.5% with a yearly inflation deflator of 1.2%.