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FY2015 budget proposal: funding drops, but ASG workforce increases

joy@samoanews.com

The American Samoa Government will increase its workforce with close to 300 employees, according to the budget cover letter for Fiscal Year 2015 Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga sent to the legislature last week. In the meantime, the budget document indicates Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) funding is dropping by 7%, Enterprise Funds by 11%, as well as overall revenue collections.
 
“As for positions within ASG, the number of positions for fiscal year 2015 is 6,803 as opposed to 6,533 in fiscal year 2014, which reflects an increase of 270 positions in connection with the Governor’s College Graduates Management Apprenticeship Program initiative providing employment internship in government and in the private sector.”
 
Lolo says ASG full time positions for contract and career service for FY 2015 amounts to $1.56million while in FY 2014 the number was $1.21million, and the 2015 Budget will finance its service programs for the operating year to ensure that quality services are rendered to the people of American Samoa.
 
Also revealed in the cover letter was the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) amount for Fiscal Year 2015, which stands at $9,297,000, a slight drop of $750,000 or — 7% — from FY 2014.
 
“ASG will continue to take an aggressive stance to accelerate and expedite the implementation of capital improvement projects to demonstrate to the Department of the Interior and the Congress of the United States that ASG does have the capacity to spend appropriations prudently,” he noted.
 
Enterprise Funds for FY 2015 total $206,938,000, and reflects a decrease of $24,437,500 — 11% lower than that of FY 2014. This significant decrease is attributed for the most part to ASPA’s budget, primarily under Electricity, Wastewater, and the exclusion of the Fuel Marketing account.
 
According to Lolo, these agencies are revenue generating semi-autonomous enterprises which should produce sufficient revenue to sustain their operations and services throughout the fiscal year.
 
ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
 
The cover letter notes the economic outlook for American Samoa is still sluggish, and the recent signing of the MOU between Bumble Bee and the Government of Samoa casts a cloud of economic uncertainty over the territory. It also points to “our inability to secure a full-fledged service bank” as adding to this uncertainty.
 
“Signs of federal fiscal challenges evidenced by the financial crisis connected with the Federal Highway Trust Fund, coupled with reduced federal grant allocations, transfer the financial burden on the government to replace lost revenues,” Lolo writes.
 
Lolo acknowledges that “the resurgence experienced with our fisheries industry provides a positive indicator that our economy is recovering, notwithstanding the Bumble Bee presence in Samoa.”
 
(Samoa News should point out that as far as it can see, the only ‘resurgence’ is the Tri Marine plant development.)
 
To protect these major assets, Lolo says, “it is necessary for the American Samoa Government to join forces with the Major Businesses Coalition and our Congressman to petition Congress to reverse its position on the unilateral application of the federal minimum wage and provide for federal incentives to safeguard and stay the competitive advantage of our canneries.”
 
Lolo says this effort “signifies the new mindset and the acknowledgement that we must unite and collaborate on promoting the development of our economy.”



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