ACE CEO offers tax solutions for LBJ & ASG
ACE American Industry president and chief executive officer Ngaire Scratch Ho Ching has suggested two taxes which could be used to fund the cash-strapped LBJ Medical Center and help the government’s financial woes.
Gov. Togiola Tulafono long ago publicly criticized anyone— including lawmakers—who criticize the government without offering suggestions or solutions to the problems.
Ho Ching not only offered her criticism, which she first voiced at last December’s Business Award Banquet, but she has now offered suggestions and solutions, when she attended Congressman Faleomavaega Eni’s public forum dealing with proposed federal legislation that would allow foreigners who have resided legally in the territory for a certain number of years to become U.S. Nationals.
Ho Ching, a native of American Samoa, told the audience that she was there to represent her mother, who was off-island for medical check ups. Prior to providing her mother’s view on the proposed legislation, Ho Ching said she agreed with a statement made by Faleomavaega earlier in the evening, when he said that it’s local immigration law which allows many non-Samoan foreigners living here to enter the territory to work and to operate businesses owned by American Samoans.
(Faleomavaega’s statement was in response to other witnesses who testified that there are a lot of non-Samoan foreigners here in the territory.)
“It’s a shame that our local people are not taking the opportunity that my family has taken advantage of [to] learn how to run their own businesses. We’re just as intelligent and we can do it—we have all the resources,” said Ho Ching. “I don’t know what is stopping our people from doing the work .... I think many times, it’s the shortsightedness.”
“They are thinking of the easy money in the pocket today without having to sweat for it,” she said, and noted that it’s our own American Samoans who are the ones sweeping the floors and doing labor work.
She says it’s “ridiculous” that American Samoans are allowing foreigners to take over local business operations in the territory.
Ho Ching said, “I would like to propose there be health taxes for businesses like fast food companies” — there are plenty of them here— and revenues collected should “go straight to fund health issues” such as services for diabetics and dialysis at the hospital, she suggested.
“LBJ is way in the red, let’s find solutions,” she said. “What about the taxes on tobacco? This tax should also go towards helping LBJ. We need to have taxes that make sense.”
She then called on the government, including members of the Fono, to take a closer look at the tax exemption law, which allows the government to issue tax exemptions to businesses in the territory. She says ACE does not get a tax exemption and therefore is paying 44% tax into the coffers of ASG.
If the government “is hurting financially, it’s because we’re not collecting enough,” she said and noted that ACE pays a large percentage of tax income to the government while others do not.
She says every business in the territory should “pay their taxes honestly” with that money going into the ASG coffers to ensure the government has sufficient funds to operate.
She went on to say that her parents - her mother a native of Samoa and her father a native of Canada, contributed immensely to the territory over the years. She said her parents began the family business back in 1983, with a small supply operation, and the company has since grown, currently employing more than 100 people.
“...we provide them (employees) with a safe working environment, a fulfilling job, the ability to support their families and...be contributing members this community,” she said. “We, as well as our employees, are all tax payers and yet many of our ACE family, including our parents, have never been allowed to vote.”
“For those who are in office and are in charge of where and how our tax dollars are spent... this constitutes a form of ‘taxation without representation’,” she pointed out.
She said her family has been a member of the community for 48 years and are here to stay and there are many families with similar situations who have made the territory their home.
She observed that this island is a melting pot of races similar to the U.S. and when you look around, “you could find people from all over the world who have lived here most of their lives— this is their home and this is their community.”
“For our community to successfully grow and improve, we need the strength of everyone— especially now. We see the entire world going thru economic crisis, facing natural disasters and political upheaval. We need to strengthen our community,” said Ho Ching.
“In hard times, you have your families and your neighbors. On an island this small, we are all neighbors, we are all family,” she said. “A democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people. The people who are contributing to our government, our economy, and our community need to have a voice.”
“When you give people a sense of ownership, via the right to vote, they become more involved and in turn strengthen the community. Let our family, our friends, and our neighbors have the right to vote. We will only become better because of it,” she said.
She agreed with other testimonies of people concerned about non-Samoans taking over local land if given U.S. National status and suggested that maybe the proposed bill can be amended to address this important issue of land.
“My major issue is the right to vote,” she said and reiterated that she feels that people who have lived here long enough and have contributed long enough to the community for many years, should be given the right to vote.
Samoa News will provide this week a final look at comments voiced during the hearing on this issue, described by Faleomavaega as “controversial”.