On the Campaign Trail 2012
Gubernatorial Candidates Lolo Letalu Moliga and Senator Lemanu Peleti Mauga fielded questions from members of the American Samoa Chamber of Commerce last week at a forum held at the Tradewinds Hotel, as part of the business organization’s Meet the Candidates series for the 2012 campaign season.
Lolo said during the team’s presentation that “We will create policies and create an environment for businesses to be nurtured and be successful, whatever local policy that needs to be changed in order to do that, we will look into it.”
The Q&A session of the forum included focus on education, tourism and government.
Businessman Lewis Wolman noted that recently 51 teachers had obtained their Masters degrees and while educators are receiving degrees, in the assessment of the test scores for SAT, ASVAB and ASCC, the students are not achieving results at the same pace the teachers are receiving their degrees.
Wolman asked “What you can do to improve in that area?”
Lolo responded that education is a very critical area in American Samoa and the hope of every parent some forty years ago was for their children to speak English, be productive and successful in their education like the students in the States.
“The more we look at the (Department of Education’s) system now, the more we realize that dream may never come true. Why? Because first, our children’s first language is not English and the English that our children are speaking may not be the right type of English.”
Lolo noted that “allocation of resources is beginning to be an issue here, and we are beginning to neglect most of the requirements of better education of our children. We are seeing the diminishing of funds, we are seeing the diminishing of resources.
“To make matters worse — where we are today, we don’t see any hope, the education system we have today is beginning not to not provide whatever is required of the education of our children, but to satisfy the requirements of whatever agencies that are producing policies for our children.”
Leland Slater, owner of Friendly Car Rental, said that in 2008 the Chamber of Commerce was presented with the Tourism Authority Master Plan with a proposed budget of 2.7 million for the first year and similar commitments the following years to build tourism in the territory, however it’s been four years and yet nothing has been done about it.
Slater asked “If you make office, what are you plans regarding tourism?”
Lolo responded that this issue has to do with our government’s relationship with the federal government; the development of our tourism industry depends largely on the moving population. “We are facing airline problems today, we are facing a major issue with the Cabotage law that we have been asking our leaders to do something with it.
“That cabotage law does not allow foreign airlines to just stop by in the territory to pick up passengers and just leave, that’s one area we need to look into improving.
“Unless we improve in that area, tourism will go nowhere, no matter how much money we invest.
“Our hope is to open up the route to other foreign countries but we cannot, unless a provision or a waiver [is] given to us… we are going to make sure that the Federal Government will pay attention to that area.
“I pledge to you that we will look into that. The key is to open up this route and also get the cabotage laws waived.”
Carl Schuster owner of Triple S Gas Station said — referring to those who head government departments — if there are any problems that need improvement and it’s not done properly, if you become Governor how will you deal with these problems?
Lolo responded that it’s been an issue with leadership. The leader focuses more on developing his political position by appointing his friends, families, and appointing those who contributed to the campaign. It’s time to put a stop to that, he said.
“We pledge that if we make office we’ll make sure the best person for the job will get the job, because what you see today is a reflection of the people who lead the government.”
Lolo said, “All the governor has to say if I see that pothole again find a new job.”
Business man Avamua David Haleck noted the government has yet to pay their utility bill to the tune of up to $10 million. The government owes that much, yet the local businesses have to pay $0.42 per kilowatt — what is your plan in that area?
Lolo responded that there are two critical areas in the government at this point, the ASPA and the hospital.
“We have no control over the cost of fuel and medicine and even the majority of the people are still making less than $10,000 per year,” he replied.
“Our people are facing a critical situation right now, we see people borrow power from other families, using other means to cook food — we’re back in the old days.”
Definitely the government cannot pay $10 million, but the government should make an effort to start paying some money to maintain ASPA’s service and the federal government should step in,” he told the audience.
(In speaking earlier on the role or relationship of the local and federal government, Lolo said, “we have to make sure to reflect the vision that our forefathers have for our children of today,” noting that in the 1900’s the forefathers signed a deed to go under the protection of the United States of America, and they were very clear and precise on what they need.)
Lolo and Lemanu both presented their economic platform during the CoC forum, which included 7 areas of their 12-point “Plan of Action”:
1 Identify existing government programs and services that may be privatized or outsourced;
2 Provide agriculture assistance to farmer to further self-reliance;
3 Allocate resources to promote the fishing and eco tourism industries;
4 Assist the department of labor to provide resources for workforce training, promote and encourage high technology business growth;
5 Allow tax incentives credits to businesses (existing and newly established),
6 Explore possibility to include private sector in American Samoa employees retirement plan; and,
7 Earmark funds to assist with commercial and residential loans and to create a Housing Authority.