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Governor Lolo revisits campaign pledge to foster economic development

In an effort to foster economic development, which was a priority during the 2012 gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is forging forward to make sure that provisions of a law providing funds to the Development Bank of American Samoa for economic development are carried out.


Lolo told directors at a cabinet meeting last week that he has discussed with ASG Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili compliance with a provision of the corporate income tax law, which provides revenues for the DBAS, and he was assured the Treasurer is in compliance with the Economic Development Fund that was enacted into law about five years ago. 


The fund, which is to have a ceiling amount of $10 million, is to be used for promoting economic development, to benefit the public and as capital investment. Upon satisfying the reserve amount required for the Income Reserve Account (which is to first pay local tax refunds), the Treasurer shall deposit into the Fund proceeds from 25% of all corporate income taxes until the Economic Development Fund is fully funded, according to the law.


Samoa News has been unable to confirm if any money was ever deposited into the Fund after all these years.


Lolo told the Fono in January that he will direct the Treasurer to comply with this law as part of the administration’s push for economic development, thereby allowing new jobs to be created here. He alluded to $500,000 being sent to DBAS under this provision of the law.


During the cabinet meeting, Lolo said that he hopes by October this year (which is the first month of the new fiscal year, 2014) “we should be able to send some money over to the Development Bank, which is part of our economic development system” and “we can at least finance some projects from the Development Bank.”


He suggested that Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele and DBAS acting president Jason Betham should sit down and start looking into these issues as soon as possible.


He also called on all directors to come up with new ideas that can boost economic development — which he believes is the task of both the government and the private sector.


“Find ways so we can help our people,” said Lolo. “We’ve got to think outside of what we are today... we can’t just continue to maintain the status quo another four years — like every year. Do something different... come up with new ideas.”


“We’re facing a lot of problems, [and] we’ve seen little light in terms of getting new jobs created and hopefully within the next year or so, Tri Marine International will come up with what they promise to deliver.”


(If all goes well for Tri Marine, the company is looking at the latter part of next year to launch its tuna cannery, hiring at the start some 1,000 workers)


“It is important that we all get together and work together — or otherwise we won’t see any change at all. Hopefully, by the end of this fiscal year we’ll start moving forward with some new ideas,” the governor said. “So let’s help our people create jobs if you can — help in any way you can — that’s the whole idea behind having government.”


He also told directors that they are a highly educated, highly skilled and highly qualified group and therefore should be able to bring in new ideas, because economic development involves everyone and “you can’t just depend” on one department, the Commerce Department, for those ideas.