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Chamber of Commerce stands ready to support Governor’s economic development agenda

fili@samoanews.com

Chamber of Commerce chairman David Robinson says the business organization stands ready to assist with the economic development agenda of Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who revealed some of that agenda during his State of the Territory Address on Monday.

“During the gubernatorial campaign the now governor repeatedly emphasized the need for government to engage with the private sector to assist in developing the economy,” said Robinson yesterday, responding to a Samoa News request for comments and reaction to the economic development agenda for the Lolo Administration.

“True to his word, he has now set economic development as his top priority in order to create jobs,” said Robinson and noted the group’s support of the governor’s plan to establish a Task Force which will prepare an Economic Development Implementation Plan (EDIP).

The Task Force is to be composed of five business people, five government representatives, and one representative each from the Senate and House. The EDIP “will contain practical and feasible economic development projects to be implemented by ASG in the next four years,” said Lolo.

Lolo will be asking the U.S. Department of the Interior for $100,000 for Technical Assistance money to fund the activities of this Task Force.

The governor says the EDIP will guide the allocation of funds and base the allocation of funds for agency budgets. Additionally, the EDIP will be sent to the Legislature for formal adoption into law and the approved EDIP will be sent to DOI and the U.S. Congress, through Congressman Faleomavaega Eni “justifying our requests for pure economic development funds.”

Robinson said the Chamber stands ready to support the Task Force in the preparation of the EDIP.

He also said the Chamber supports a number of other issues featured in the governor’s address on economic development such as the plan to strengthen the financial capability of the Development Bank of American Samoa, efforts to establish a retail bank to replace the Bank of Hawai’i, divesting waste water, solid waste functions and fuel  distribution from ASPA and increasing funding for tourism development.

“These issues are all now prominently placed on the Governor's agenda. Again the Chamber stands  ready to assist with these issues whenever and however it is called upon to do so,” said Robinson.

DBAS FUNDING

Lolo said the government must earmark additional funds to be sent to DBAS “to allow our local businesses to access venture capital to expand, and for others to start new businesses.”

“I aim to aggressively promote the concept of local entrepreneurship,” the governor said. “Starting a business reflects an alternative for others in our community instead of depending on the government for a job. This is only possible if they have access to a source of venture capital.”

Lolo revealed that he will direct the ASG Treasurer to “aggressively comply” with provisions of a bill, enacted a few years ago, earmarking $500,000 to DBAS “to support its small business lending program.”

LOCAL BANK

As reported by Samoa News last week and repeated by the governor before the Fono, Lolo has been approached by a local group of businesses and community leaders announcing their efforts to establish a bank.

“I have encouraged them to accelerate their efforts and bring their plans to fruition as soon as possible,” said Lolo, who added that he is has great concerns with the departure of BoH “because of the devastating impact on our efforts to advance our economic development agenda.”

TOURISM DEVELOPMENT

Lolo said he has instructed the Treasury Department and the ASG Budget Office to earmark $500,000 of fiscal year 2007 capital improvement projects available for re-grant to be given to the American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau “to accelerate tourism development activities”.

Likewise, he has informed Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, chairman of the Capital Improvement Project Committee, to allocate funds to restart the Tram Way Facility.

He has also instructed the Department of Public Works to conduct a structural assessment of the remaining portion of the old Rainmaker Hotel to determine if it is worth saving.

“If the facility’s structural integrity is compromised, I will order its demolition with landscaping the area. My intention is to solicit proposals for the development of the area with the basic goal of job creation,” he said.

ASPA ISSUES

As reported by Samoa News, the governor’s mandate for the new American Samoa Power Authority is to among other things, reduce electric and water rates within 100 days or sooner and divest solid waste and waste water functions away from ASPA to other ASG agencies.

The board is also mandated to develop a transition plan” to get ASPA out of the fuel distribution business as soon as possible.”

More next week on other economic development issues from the governor and responses from the Chamber.



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