The Samoan time travellers

Samoa, an island in South Pacific halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, has decided to change its time zone.

It’s that simple to do, since there’s no ruling body which prevents the Samoan government from deciding on the change. As of 27 December 2011 the country will jump a full day ahead, from Thursday to Saturday.

As long as the country’s estimated 179,000 inhabitants and their business partners are made aware, the change may actually cause less confusion than they currently encounter. At the moment Samoa is 21 hours behind Australia, which has made doing business with them extremely difficult.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi explained: “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.”

Under the proposed change, Samoa will be just three hours ahead of Sydney. The last country to make a similar change was Kiribati in 1995, also for economic reasons. The move boosted Kiribati’s tourist economy as they became the first country to see in the third millennium.

Few other countries have ever made the move, and this is actually the second time that Samoa will do so. Under King Malietoa Laupepa in 1892, Samoa moved in the opposite direction.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be quite so easy to decide to move time zones – if only for the sake of cartographers who, by the end of the year, will have to reissue maps to encompass the changes. At least their New Year’s plans won’t get messed up.