DOC and PA are positive constructions in progress

Dear Editor,
I am writing in response to Jim Brittle’s letter of 2/8/13 entitled “the good, the bad, and the ugly”.  I am a fan of JB’s concise and witty community-friendly Letters to the Editors and will always be. I am responding not to engage JB in a good old ‘tit for tat’ contest our little territory is famous for; but instead to assuage any concerns the public may have following certain comments attributed to me (as reported in a Samoa News article) in my confirmation hearings — which obviously have been interpreted out of context in some quarters (including JB).
One of the questions asked of me during the House confirmation hearing was what I would do as the director of the Department of Commerce about the plight of American Samoan owned businesses, which to most if not all keen observers should make the list of ‘endangered species’. 
American Samoan owned businesses, as we know, have had a very difficult time competing with Asian owned and operated enterprises mainly due to financing reasons, and to a significant degree entrepreneurial skills and sheer determination. It is also important to understand that American Samoa is not a developed country — I would place AS somewhere between an underdeveloped and a developing country.
Given the above, American Samoa should look at countries of similar economic status for best practices in business development for their indigenous populations. The institutions of development banks and business incubators in underdeveloped and developing countries exist to assist in enhancing the capacity of low income people to become profitable entrepreneurs or productive workers.     
In our case, the Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS) should make it easier for low income American Samoans to access financial assistance to start or upkeep their business enterprises. Add a business incubator to DBAS then we have a development model to assist local business in managing, marketing, and paying their obligations on time (development bank loan, income and payroll taxes, and other liabilities); and most of all, engender the ability to raise the standard of living for their families to at least minimally acceptable levels.
Now that I have made it through the confirmation hearings, we at the DOC are working proactively and collaboratively with the DBAS under the direction of the Lolo and Lemanu administration. The DOC/DBAS ‘mandate’ is to help develop our economy by funding and granting development loans (federal sources) to all qualified applicants, with special attention to the long overlooked and underserved sector of the territory — the low income but potential-filled local entrepreneurs.
That said, and if I may, I would like to vouch for my colleague’s appointment to head the Port Administration which JB labeled as “ugly”.  I believe JB’s assessment is harsh and premature, and the new PA director will deliver the goods and make JB eat his hat.
I, one of many, respect the service JB has given this government and territory over the years, both as a government employee and businessman. I invite JB to visit the DOC sometime and share his wisdom and knowledge with us. Just leave the sarcasm at the door.
Keniseli Lafaele    


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