Lolo outlines to DOI areas critical for federal aid
Education, health care, airports, wharfs, economic development (Job Creation), a new vessel, dredging of Ta’u, Faleasao, and Ofu Harbors, federal incentives, marine railway, public highway, drainage, public utilities and Cabotage Restrictions were among the issues that Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga noted in his letter sent to Eileen Sobeck, Acting Assistant Secretary Office of Insular Affairs last week.
“Thank you for the opportunity for the insular areas to revisit issues of critical importance influencing efforts to advance our respective peoples quality of lives,” said Lolo.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (JOB CREATION)
The governor pointed out that economic development (job creation) remains the top priority of his administration, where American Samoa continues to struggle with the consequences of the September 29, 2011 Tsunami and the closure of Van Camp Samoa Packing tuna canning operation, which instantly curtailed 2,200 direct jobs. He noted that the U.S. Department of Labor determined a multiplier effect of 3,000 more indirect job rescissions from the closing.
He also noted the current unemployment rate is estimated at 29% and one of the aggressively pursued economic strategies aims to protect the competitive advantage of StarKist Samoa and Tri-Marine (Samoa Tuna Processing). “The forceful and rigorous investment schemes by China, expanding its fisheries infrastructure to increase its world market share of canned tuna, directly threatens the business survival of our tuna fish operations.”
This economic strategy encompasses improving the operating fisheries environment through support infrastructure (sufficient docking space for fishing vessels, efficient and cost effective shipyard repair services, suppressing diesel fuel cost, reducing wharfage fees, and decreasing fishing vessels lapsed time in port).
Lolo stated that the government is taking aggressive steps to develop the Manu’a islands to support our agricultural, fisheries and tourism development efforts. To accomplish this economic development vision, basic infrastructural systems must be improved. The most critical issue, he says, is establishing reliable and affordable air and surface transportation systems to service the Manu’a Islands.
The governor pointed out that the local government is robustly improving fisheries related infrastructure, but federal incentives such as the eliminated IRC Section 936 and soon to expire 30A tax provision will undermine the effectiveness of local efforts. The competitive advantage of the fisheries operations is further severely battered by the Congressionally decreed application of the Federal Minimum Wage in the Territory.
Given the fact that China is heavily subsidizing components of its fisheries infrastructure, American Samoa’s canneries are placed in a very precarious position, thus compelling continued assistance from the Federal Government.
Lolo noted that the territory critically needs federal incentives, along with permanently suspending the application of the Federal Minimum Wage in the territory. It is crucial to bring to the attention of Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA) that American Samoa has suffered indirectly from international and national fisheries bilateral agreements according special treatment to U.S. Foreign Allies with respect to quotas on fisheries products imported into the United States. The interests of American Samoa are never addressed in these treaty negotiations but the net effect is the undermining and compromising of our canneries’ competitive advantage.
Focusing on tourism, the governor believes the federal government must reconsider its current policies reflected in cabotage prohibitions and Essential Air Service eligibility requirements.
American Samoa continues to be treated as one of the contiguous states of the union with equal economic development capacities and this perception and basis of comparison is grossly unfair and baseless. “Its minute size, lack of natural harvestable economic resources, remoteness from the economic mainstream, very limited arable land to accommodate proper economies of scale, industrial operations, absence of venture capital, and unskilled workforce qualify American Samoa for special federal assistance. “It is my keen hope that IGIA will articulate this issue to all federal agencies so policy declarations are sensitive to these island idiosyncrasies.”
The Governor also addressed the state of health care in the territory; more on his letter in tomorrow’s issue.
THE NEW COMMENTS PROCESS
To make comments, you will need to register. You can register under your real name or use a 'screen' name. This way, people will be able to follow comments and make comments back and forth to each other. If you choose to use a 'screen name' no one will know your true identity. In either case, no email addresses will be available to anyone. It is an automated process. If you have questions, email: email@example.com
You currently are not logged in, please LOGIN to post comments.