Chamber of Commerce elects new board, predicts challenges ahead for private sector
Chamber of Commerce’s out-going chairman is predicting the new year to be another challenging one for the private sector as costs of imported goods will be more expensive than this year, and urged everyone to capitalize on the the territory’s new relationship with two Asian countries.
David Robinson made his forecast known during the Chamber general membership meeting held late Wednesday afternoon. The end of the year gathering gives the sitting chairman an opportunity to outline the Chamber executive board’s work throughout the year and this usually includes a projection for the next year.
Robinson told the meeting that 2012 “has been a difficult year” for local businesses and “there is no question about that”. He also says that various government sources have stated that things are “not rosy out there” and everyone is faced with some tough times now.
And 2013 “does not look much better” as things will be much the same as this year, he said, adding that last week’s announcement by Bank of Hawai’i that it is closing down its two local branches on March 15, sends a “very poor signal” to potential investors in the region, wanting to invest in a U.S. territory.
“We need some investment, we need job creation,” he said and hoped that the new administration of governor-elect Lolo Matalasi Moliga and lieutenant governor-elect Lemanu Peleti Sialega Mauga will look to implement measures that will support and improve “our flagging economy”.
Robinson says he believes the Chamber will be invited by the new administration to provide a more “prominent role” in assisting with the development plans and implementing strategies with officials of the new government next year.
As to the outlook of 2013 from a business perspective, Robinson said it’s probably more of the same difficulties the private sector has experienced in 2012.
He said the cost of goods, raw materials and transport costs will continue to rise, making the products that the private sector imports more expensive than they are now. He also pointed out that the European and U.S. economies will continue to struggle but China and major Asian countries will continue to provide growth.
Therefore, he said, “we should capitalize” on the new relationships formed with Indonesia, and more recently, Taiwan.
Robinson was a member of the territory’s delegation to Indonesia led by the governor in October where they met with the president and cabinet members of that country.
Robinson gave a brief summary of the trip during the Chamber meeting saying that it was very productive and there are some issues for follow up by the new board and the new administration for economic development.
He also said that the local delegation had visited the North Sulawesi Province, to arrange the sister-city Memorandum of Understanding with American Samoa. He said this Province was chosen as a sister-city because of its large Christian population, while the rest of Indonesia is mostly Muslim. (See Nov. 27 edition of Samoa News for more details from the Chamber on its role in the Indonesia trip and the outcome of the visit).
As for Taiwan, the governor returned early this week following meetings with Taiwan’s president and other officials on a number of issues including investment opportunities in the territory. Tourism from Taiwan was also discussed for easy entry of Taiwanese tourists into Pago Pago, under the entry permit policy.
At the end of meeting the vote for the new executive board was conducted. The re-elected board members are Robinson of Interplan and Impex; Aaron Forsgren of Forsgren’s Ltd.; Leland Slater of Friendly Car Rental and Brett Butler of StarKist Samoa.
Newly elected board members are Isabel Steffany Hudson of Moana o Sina, Jason Betham of the Development Bank of American Samoa and Laufa’i Fanene of Rayne’s Fashion and Accessories.
The new executive board plans to meet soon to elect the chair, vice chair, treasurer and secretary. Thereafter, they will set out their course of action over the next 12 months. (The out-going board served for 14 months).
Robinson told the meeting, prior to voting in the new board, that one of the issues for the Chamber to look at is having more women on the board and longer terms for the board — for example two to three years, instead of just 12 months. The new women on the new board are Hudson and Fanene.