Togiola at odds with C of C assessment of economy
Gov. Togiola Tulafono claims that economic conditions in American Samoa are improving with the canneries hiring more workers next year and others in the business sector picking up the pace. This despite the Chamber of Chamber saying that the territory has a weak economy with no new investment and job opportunities.
Togiola’s take on the local economy was included in his cover letter when the government’s more than $497 million budget for fiscal year 2013 was submitted to the Fono on Monday.
As part of the chief executive's budget submission letter, the sitting governor also provides an outlook on the status of the current economy heading into the new fiscal year and Togiola has done so each year when the budget is sent to the Fono.
“Despite risks of a long drawn out global economic recovery, there are signs of positive development in our private sector as our local canneries plan to increase their work force next year to meet increased demands,” wrote Togiola in his last budget letter as chief executive, because his term in office ends on Jan. 3, 2013.
“Increased production output in our local canneries is projected to fuel short term growth in our sluggish economy just as it gradually carves its way out to a more sustainable lasting recovery,” he noted.
He said the local economy gains, noting certain things are in American Samoa’s favor with the recent passage by the U.S. Congress of federal law to delay the next wage hike to 2015, saying it “came at a critical time when our canneries struggle to control increase in labor costs.”
“While we do our very best to manage our financial challenges locally, we are rather fortunate that our government is not in debt to any foreign entity (country) or to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) for that matter, in which it may otherwise imperil our economic recovery,” he said.
He also informed the Fono that the government-owned Ronald Reagan Marine Railway shipyard operation remains “viable” as it secures an order backlog and currently offers sustainable employment for local residents.
Togiola noted the surge in local revenue collection for FY 2013 of $77.3 million compared to prior years “could possibility signal an economic rebound while further growth can be further sustained through steady job creation in a vibrant private sector.”
Overall, as local economic conditions improve, business activities in the canneries and other sectors of the local economy are projected to pick up, he said.
“Rest assured a sustainable recovery should prop up our revenue base, securing additional financial resources [to] be made available to further enhance funding for education, healthcare, infrastructure, and economic development programs for our people,” he added.
Despite the prosperous economic future painted by the governor, the Chamber chairman David Robinson told Samoa News over the weekend that there “is serious weakness in our economy due to the lack of new investment and new job opportunities.”
Robinson said he will raise this issue as well as the other matters during a meeting later this month with two officials — of the U.S. Census Bureau scheduled to be on island to conduct the Economic Census for American Samoa — which is carried out every five years. (See Monday’s edition for more details on this story.)