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On the Campaign Trail 2012

Gubernatorial candidates Afoa L Su’esu’e Lutu and Le’i Sonny Thompson with Chamber of Commerce President David Robinson following Team Afoa and Le’i’s presentation to the business community on ways they propose to better the territory’s economy. The presentation took place at the Naumati Conference Room at the Tradewinds Hotel, Thursday afternoon. (Courtesy photo from Team Afoa and Le’i)

AFOA & LE’I: “WE ARE THE BEST QUALIFIED TEAM…”

by Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

 “We are the best qualified team to lead American Samoa forward in the next several years, between Le’i and I we have decades of experience in government — in leadership positions, private sector, US Military, church and village leader positions.”

This is the message from gubernatorial candidate Afoa L Su’esu’e Lutu and his running mate for Lt. Governor, Le’i Sonny Thompson, when they appeared before the Chamber of Commerce members Thursday afternoon at the Naumati Conference room.

Afoa addressed the business community using a power point presentation to explain the team’s overview of their “Master Plan” for economic development — highlighting their priorities, which included, fisheries, duty free harbor, agriculture, tourism, privatization, business license applications, etc.

Afoa said a healthy economy means profits for the business community but more importantly, it means jobs for the people. “Jobs will translate to financial stability for our families to pay for their needs, food, education, health, etc.”

Economic development requires a working partnership between government and the private sector, and we each have our roles, the candidate stated.

The government’s is to support and create an environment that will foster business growth and attract new investors and businesses. Private sectors’ is to provide the ingenuity, capital and management skills required for business expansion and new ventures.

In the words of Assistant Secretary for the US Department of Interior, Anthony Babauta, Afoa noted the economic prospects of American Samoa have “fallen precipitously over recent years and remain bleak.”

Afoa asked rhetorically: “What must we do and how?”

He replied there are reports and plans at hand already, such as the Economic Advisory Commission report, the USDOI business opportunities reports prepared for American Samoa and the annual Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CED) reports.

“We will build on existing economic plans already created and mold a working master plan for economic development with emphasis on our strengths — a realistic plan that we can follow to create a road to a sustainable economy,” said Afoa.

He said American Samoa residents with the expertise and knowledge in the various areas would carry out this plan. Afoa explained that this master plan should direct from the start what is already there and maximize the productivity.

Le’i later in the presentation noted that he saw many faces of people in the audience who could contribute their expertise and know-how to what he and Afoa want to do.

“The plan must be comprehensive, to address development needs and implement them in a responsible manner that is consistent with managing our natural resources wisely,” Afoa stated.

He said they have already started the preliminary review, with the knowledge of what is needed in the territory. “When we are elected we will immediately invite others like you to help solidify this master plan.”

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS PRIORITIES

Afoa said their economic development priorities include fisheries, harbor/port, agriculture, tourism, e-commerce and other, which have one thing in common — to pursue and develop revenue sources.

“Fisheries will be at the forefront of economic development, we have the infrastructure here and we consider that there is still more that can be done with fish.”

Afoa said the plan is to maximize the fish market to export and have fresh-frozen fish and products like sausages and fishburgers that are being made in the US — noting that these products have higher labor costs in the US than American Samoa.

He said we can ask the cannery plants to explore these possibilities, the business community will also be asked for their interest in these businesses.

Afoa applauded Tri-Marine, which he is guiding themselves towards the fresh and frozen markets, however there can be many other businesses that can be developed from fish.

“We also must continue to support our existing tuna plant and fisheries industry.”

To do this, Afoa pointed to supporting the Federal initiatives to ensure the continuation of tax credits that are expiring at the end of 2012. In particular, he ensured the business community that they are at the forefront of fisheries discussion and what is going on — instead of finding out at the last minute that a plant is closing.

He said that American Samoa is the capital of the fisheries industry in the Western Pacific and they will make sure that American Samoa’s position is heard at all levels. “We will meet skilled labor needs locally through education reforms, training and development and apprenticeships in these positions.”

DUTY FREE HABOR

Afoa said Pago Pago harbor is American Samoa’s greatest asset, given the best natural harbor in the South Pacific and the relationship with the US opens a wide range of opportunities to develop the port.

He said they are looking at creating a business-center for the area by providing a duty free zone. This idea has been around since Governor Uifa’atali Peter Coleman said Afoa, but no one explored the possibility.  

“The development and execution of a plan to convert this harbor into a duty free zone for commercial tourism, and to trade with other islands, would allow American Samoa to become a hub between all the surrounding islands, providing duty free ports for imports of various commercials items to be sold and distributed.”

Afoa explained that while American Samoa is the perfect location, there are also high transportation costs involved, but with the duty free zone, and business people willing to import equipment, electronics, canned items, clothing — all duty free — inter-islands business opportunities can be created, helping everyone’s economy.

Afoa said infrastructure improvements will be required for such a proposal to maximize usage of space, and he said one of the options they are exploring is to extend the dock and to redevelop the Rainmaker hotel area.

“If the tuna plant decides to leave us in the future we will already have those docks and warehouses that can be easily converted.

“We want to plan ahead for any future changes, as we want to continue having the facilities and infrastructure to continue to welcome boats and related commerce for transshipment purposes.” 

He added that these proper infrastructure and facilities will attract more business to the Pago Pago port.

TOURISM

Afoa noted that in addition to the National Park and Marine Sanctuaries, Tisa’s Tattoo Festival and I’a lapo’a fishing tournament, American Samoa must capitalize on the harbor and the option of duty free goods from the US.

‘We wanted a Visitor’s Bureau so now we have it, but we must support it not only through funding but also through the activities of different departments so that our actions will help keep our people conscious of the effort to boost tourism.”

For example, Afoa said the Department of Agriculture, Samoan Affairs and Department of Health, Parks and Recreations can create support programs for tourism: beautification of villages, eradication of stray dogs, clean streams, clean public restrooms, etc.

He said we should not compete with the neighboring islands, because all the neighboring islands are beautiful too, and other islands are more advanced with infrastructure for tourists and it’s mostly cheaper to travel to these destinations.

“So instead of competing, we join them and work collaboratively with them to have American Samoa as an option for tourists.”

Samoa News will publish Part 2 of the Afoa and Le’i Team presentation to the Chamber of Commerce in Monday’s issue, highlighting their priorities.

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE TIM JONES NAMES TUIKA TUIKA AS RUNNING MATE

(PRESS RELEASE) — Tragedy is not when Government is bad. Tragedy is when good people do nothing about it.

American Samoa has many good people. Good hearts, good will and well meaning. They love their families and embrace their culture more than any people I have ever witnessed around the world. While I am not a Samoan by blood, I have been your neighbor and partner in this community for 16 years. We have laughed at each other’s jokes, we have cried together over our losses. We have helped each other with our problems.  We are brothers and sisters in every way that matters.  If you doubt that in any way, when you go to church this Sunday, ask God.

We have done one more thing together — a thing we cannot be proud of. We have watched for many years while our Government has made bad decisions for our community and we have done nothing about it. We have watched our leaders spend Billions of dollars and what do we have to show for it? A hospital that nearly closed its doors for lack of funding. Our children graduate high school with the lowest SAT scores across America and we have the highest Electric Utility rates anywhere I have ever seen. Our community needs good people who are not afraid to stand up and say enough is enough.

I have spent the last three years in search of an individual with enough courage and strength to stand and fight this problem with me. As a community of people who know we must change the way our government operates, I ask you to recognize the extra-ordinary courage found in a man named Tuika Tuika — a man that I have asked to join me in this historic campaign and battle for your rights to a Government who treats everyone equally.

Mr. Tuika Tuika brings many years of experience in finance with in-depth knowledge of how money is moved throughout our Government. He brings a passion and energy to the table that is desperately needed to be successful with the changes ahead. Mr. Tuika Tuika, with his many years of Government Experience can help guide me with planning ahead for the future and with the tough decisions on what can and cannot be done with Government funds.  He brings solid commitment to following the law as set forth by your elected officials and promises to advise me well in advance on mistakes that have been made in the past so we do not repeat them.

Please welcome Mr. Tuika Tuika to the Campaign Team for the Governor’s office that will make a difference for you. Officially I announce Mr. Tuika Tuika as my partner in this race in the position of Lt Governor for American Samoa.



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