Governor to private sector: Govn't is not your enemy
Gov. Togiola Tulafono told members of the private sector that the government is not their enemy, as may have appeared in the past, adding that the government is also a customer to the business community.
Togiola was speaking Saturday night at the 4th Annual Business Award ceremony co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Business and Professional Women of American Samoa held at the Governor H.Rex Lee Auditorium.
The governor's address focused on two words - constituency and customer - which he says are "very important in our mindset going forward. It's there and it's always been there."
"We all serve the same people - they're your customers, they are our constituents. As a matter of fact, the government is one of your customers and each and everyone of you is one of our constituents," Togiola told the crowd at the well attended event.
He said that everything that the government has attempted to do in the past and the accomplishments that ASG has tried to achieve "are actually in further development" of the partnership between the government and the private sector.
However, "every time we propose a tax, everybody is up in arms and everybody complains - ‘here again is the government wanting more money, taxing away at us and wanting more and more taken away from us, the business community'" said Togiola.
"But at the same time, you expect the government to go looking for more money, bring in more programs, and get more people employed, so that the buying power of the community is enhanced - so that they can buy your services and your goods," he pointed out.
"What does that say? It says that we have to do a better job working together as partners. Government is your partner [and], you are the government's partner," he said. "But if you continue to treat each other as enemies - the economy will continue to grow but not as affectively and not as strongly as it should."
The governor commended Chamber chairman David Robinson for trying to fashion the cooperative spirit between the government and the Chamber. The governor also pointed out that there have been past Chamber leaderships who were "so anti-government... that they treated the government ...like a mortal enemy."
"Let's do a better job by working together. This is all we've got. This is your government," Togiola urged the private sector.
He said the territory has gone through some difficult and challenging times for the local economy but only "a few of you have partnered up with [government] and worked together in developing the economy of the territory". He thanked those supporters "for that vision and for your efforts."
For the 12 months left in his administration, Togiola said, his door is always open as "we continue to work together. There will be a lot of things that we can [do to] help shape the future."
"Ladies and gentlemen it's been a pleasure working with you... serving you - mostly friendly people and "it's also been fun working with our enemies", said the governor, suggesting that some in the crowd have criticized him behind his back. But, he added, "it never fazed me in my life because if there is one thing I am proud of, I took this office as a business person."
He said he would probably be the last one to come from the business community into the leadership of government, adding that "most often the leaders are elected from public service."
"We are not enemies - we should be friends, we should be neighbors, we should be partners and we should do a better job partnering up for the future of your businesses and our government," he said and wished the business community a Merry Christmas.