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On the Campaign Trail 2012

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SALU & SAVUSA: STRONG NEED FOR GOVERNMENT, PRIVATE SECTOR TO WORK CLOSELY TOGETHER

The gubernatorial team of “Salu and Savusa” were up front with the Chamber of Commerce about not “knowing everything” dealing with economic development and the business sector and the reason there is a “strong need” for the private sector and the government to work in partnership to develop a solid economy for a territory where the average household has six members with an average annual income of around $8,000 a year.

The team was also up front about telling Chamber members that more people in the private sector need to join the business organization, because that would help the government in a partnership with the private sector.

Candidate for governor, Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau and candidate for lieutenant governor Utuali’i Iuniasolua T. Savusa, made their economic platform presentation two weeks ago to the Chamber.

“I certainly believe that this election is an election of issues and will be the defining point in terms of making that decision,” Hunkin-Finau said in her opening comments, adding the team is keen on working with the private sector especially the Chamber, if elected, in order to help further develop the territory’s economy.

Utuali’i said, “we’re not fully experts... as far as the economy is concerned, and the different industries involved... but we are very, very serious, about putting in steps or processes that can make it better. With the private sector the way it is, you are the experts in the economy.”

 “Salu and I will lean on you, as far as helping this partnership with the government, to improve the lives and the quality of life of our people,” he said.

 He spoke of “introducing more businesses and encouraging people to start new businesses to help give people jobs, which — again — improve the quality of life” in American Samoa.

At the start of their power point presentation, Utuali’i pointed out the team’s mission statement: “Now is the Time” — to seriously seek the guidance of God to develop a principle-centered government that will benefit all families resulting in a peaceful, prosperous, first-rate U.S. territory in the Pacific.”

He highlighted “principle centered government”, saying that a government is formed to govern the people, but it’s leaders that actually do the governing... and it takes quality leaders with character and integrity, leaders who don’t hold their ego and their greed before the government and the people — who consider the people first.

He provided familiar government statistics; for example, the local population is around 55,000 and the average household in the territory has six members. Additionally, the average age in the territory is 21 — “most of them kids, who just graduated from high school without a trade to enter into the work force.”

“Some are college graduates, with a degree that is probably not focused on a skill for jobs,” he said, and noted that 48% of the population are women.

Hunkin-Finau added that the women “are an under-utilized human resource and the poverty level is “just astounding” in terms of income-per-capita, with the average income for American Samoa at about $8,000 a year and six people in a household, with utilities, and the cost of everything going up.

She spoke of the concerns raised in a report done by the ASG Economic Advisory Council. “We also had the opportunity of seeking out business people and talking to them so we might learn their concerns.”

Interestingly enough, she said, there were common concerns voiced by the business people.

One of the concerns cited in the EAC report — as well as being noted by members of the business community who had spoken to the team — dealt with the difficulty in obtaining a business license, with waiting times as long as six months.

The report recommended a “one-stop center” for a person looking to obtain a business license instead of going to various agencies, she said and noted that team “Salu and Savusa supports this recommendation.”

She suggested three weeks as a waiting period “should be sufficient” and pointed out “I can see where money is wasted, waiting six months for an application.”

Another issue of concern was the issue of taxes — corporate tax, excise tax and wage tax — and all of this boils down to the business people trying to pay taxes in order to help the government. However, she was quick to point out that paying all these taxes would mean a decrease in the opportunity for a business to expand and hire more people.

“We would like to be able to re-assess and reform the tax policy and reassess the tax exemption board,” she said.

“Immigration is another area of concern” and Hunkin-Finau said this was a major issue shared by the business community, especially those who count on bringing in foreign workers — or guest workers — and the process to obtain their necessary paperwork.

She said immigration can also cause problems for foreign investors coming into the territory, just to get paperwork or documents processed.

“So what we would like to do is look at the current immigration policy for investors — to invite investors who would come in and add to our economy,” she said. “To streamline the process for investors and guest workers…”

“We would like to see and encourage more small businesses created and developed by our own people. And we certainly don’t want to give you the impression that we know everything, but certainly we know the importance of working closely with the Chamber of Commerce,” she said.

The long time educator also relayed to the Chamber meeting that she found, from talking to members of the private sector, that some are not members of the Chamber, which currently has a membership of 84.

“We need to get more people into the Chamber of Commerce because that would help the government, in partnership [with the private sector],” she said. “A close partnership with  many members of the Chamber of Commerce would help out... with economic development of the territory.”

Team “Salu and Savusa” also outlined five promising economic sector development areas, which were cited in another report by EAC, adding “we looked at it and we totally agree”. “These are the things that would capitalize on our natural resources, especially our human resources.”

Those economic developments include tourism and Hunkin-Finau pointed to Upolu island in Samoa where tourism “is booming” and residents in villages of Upolu understand that this is another source of revenue for the island.

“But we have one of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific. We need to capitalize on this in terms of tourism,” she said about American Samoa.

Light manufacturing is another area of economic development which Hunkin-Finau noted, reporting on a recent visit to Moana o Sina in Fogagogo where she was given the ‘siamu popo’, or coconut jam, which has been around for years in the territory.

She said siamu popo is something that could be produced and marketed and people all over the world would love it. Another idea of light manufacturing she suggested is Samoan soap. “Why aren’t we making our own soap, with all the coconut that we have?” she asked.

Another suggestion for economic development she noted is Workforce Education Technology, or “WET”.

“We have probably one of the best infrastructure systems, as far as technology in the South Pacific— [but] we are not using it,” she said and noted that the call center industry is missing in American Samoa.

She spoke of agriculture and fishing, “using our natural resources — our ocean is our agriculture. Samoans have lived on these islands... for centuries on what land they have, and the ocean,” she said.

“Certainly this is something that we need to capitalize on. We are grateful for what’s going on at StarKist and Tri Marine International in their effort to employ more people and keep this going so that we use not only the resources that we have, but offer jobs — employment — for our people,” she said.

And finally, the topic turned to economic development in the areas of environment and energy. “This is another way we can make money,” she said, noting that the team will continue to address these subjects more on the campaign trail.

ALL GUBERNATORIAL “TEAMS” CONFIRM INTEREST TO ADDRESS CHAMBER

Candidate for governor in the 2012 gubernatorial race, Tim Jones - who has yet to make an official announcement of his candidacy or name a running mate — is the only one who has not yet responded to the Chamber of Commerce call for gubernatorial teams to address the business organization on economic platforms, says Chamber chairman David Robinson.

The first team to accept and address the Chamber two weeks ago, was the team of Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau, candidate for governor and her running mate, candidate for lieutenant governor, Utuali’i Iuniasolua T. Savusa.

Robinson told Samoa News last Friday there are now three other teams who have confirmed their interest in meeting with the Chamber. On July 26, the team of “Save and Sandra” will address the general membership meeting of the organization.

Thereafter, the Chamber will be hearing from the team of “Lolo and Lemanu” set for Aug. 2nd and probably the second week of August will be the team of “Afoa and Le’i”.

“The Chamber understands from their campaign headquarters that the team of Faoa and Taufete’e is now working on a date in late August for their meeting with the Chamber. Nothing has been heard from the Tim Jones camp so far,” said Robinson.

He said the “Chamber has stressed the importance of all the teams sharing with the membership a well thought out platform and plan for economic development to strengthen our economy.”

“The Chamber does not want to hear a roll out of the usual long list of issues, as the private sector is well aware of these issues, and it does not want to hear about ‘dreams’ for the future,” said Robinson.  “It wants to hear about plans, about vision, about specific action to be implemented for the improvement of the economy under a new administration.”

According to the chairman, the Chamber membership is looking forward to hearing from the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor and sharing their views with the private sector.

Samoa News points out that both Robinson and Salu (of the Team of Salu & Savusa) noted their disappointment at the turnout of the Chamber membership during the last general meeting of the business organization, with only about 20 members showing up out of a membership of 80 plus. At the time, Robinson called for more participation by members.

ELECTION OFFICE REPORTS ELECTION ROLL AT ABOUT 16,000 VOTERS AND INCREASING

At the end of the second quarter of fiscal year 2012 - Jan. 1-Mar. 31, 2012 - the official election roll “is now at about 16,000 voters and is expected to increase as more and more people are coming in to get their new identification cards,” according to the Election Office second quarter performance report for FY 2012.

The report, submitted by Chief Election Officer Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono, also states that the new voter registration system is operating smoothly with very minor glitches and reiterated that only new registered voters and those with expired voter ID cards will be issued a new one.

Since the beginning of the new system, more than 1,500 have come in, to either register or re-register since the last election, it says. (Those who re-registered had been purged from the voter roll due to failure to vote in the last two consecutive elections.)

The report went on to state that high school registration reflected a high number of young voters. According to the report, the Outreach and Future Voter Project will now shift to high schools since the completion of the program for elementary schools. This education program tells students who are not yet of voter age, that voting is important to the future of the territory and encourage youngsters to register to vote when they come of age.

Currently, the Election Office is planning to create an absentee computer database for the upcoming election, revise and update the election office website and prepare voter registration lists for candidates, using the voter roll from the 2012 general election. (The voter roll list is updated once the current voter registration period ends at the close of business on Oct. 9)

Election Office reminds military personnel — including dependents — and overseas voters that they can now request absentee ballots through the Election Office website. These requests will be kept in the system until the ballots are printed and ready for distribution.

Election Office website: www.americansamoaelectionoffice.org

This year, voters in the territory go to the polls on Nov. 6 to cast ballots for governor and lieutenant governor; the U.S. Congressional seat; seats in the local House of Representatives; and a referendum dealing with the Fono veto override power.



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