2016 GDP for territory decreased by $17Mil


American Samoa’s estimated gross domestic product (GDP) decreased in 2016, as government and private sector investment declined compared to previous years, according to data released Monday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the US Department of Commerce.

BEA said estimates of GDP for American Samoa show that real GDP — GDP adjusted to remove price changes — decreased 2.5% in 2016 after increasing 1.2% in 2015. For comparison, real GDP for the United States, excluding the territories, increased 1.5% in 2016 after increasing 2.9% in 2015.

According to BEA data, American Samoa’s GDP in 2015 totaled $659 million and $658 million in 2016.

“When you compare the nominal GDP numbers for 2015 and 2016, GDP decreased by only $1 million or 0.15%, but when adjusted for inflation, real GDP decreased by $17 million or 2.5% — a significant amount,” ASG Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele said yesterday responding to Samoa News inquiries.

He explained that all components of the GDP — personal consumption, private investments, government expenditure, and net exports — registered negative numbers.

“The leading causes of the decline in GDP are significant drops in government expenditure/ investments and private investments,” he pointed out.

Lafaele also said that it's important to note the decrease in importation of fish to be processed for export by the canneries in 2016, which contributed to drop in exports for the year.

“This is a direct impact of federal policy of increasing national marine monuments and sanctuaries; and restrictions on fishing on the high seas,” he said. “It is also important to note that the aggregate price level in American Samoa increased significantly in 2016.”

According to the BEA, decline in the American Samoa economy reflected decreases in spending on construction and equipment; as several investment projects in both the government sector and private sector ended or entered their final stages during 2015.

It also says that the decrease in government spending, reflects a decline (6.99%) in investment spending by the territorial government, in which spending had been elevated (4.10%) in 2015 due to the American Samoa TeleCommunication Authority’s work to improve broadband capacity and coverage in American Samoa and the American Samoa Power Authority’s work to rebuild the Satala Plant.

ASTCA’s work referred to by BEA is the multi-million-dollar Broadband Linking the American Samoa Territory (BLAST) project.

According to BEA, business spending on construction and equipment continued to decrease, following major investments made by the tuna canning industry in previous years.

Samoa News notes that one of the major cannery investments was by Tri Marine International for its Samoa Tuna Processors (STP) Inc., cannery plant at Atu’u village. The cannery operations closed down last December laying-off some 700 workers.

When asked of any chances of the GDP improving in 2017, Lafaele said, the closure of STP “is weighing negatively on the 2017 economy, and our fishery industry in general is faced with some challenges.”

“We are encouraged by the fact that Tri Marine is not abandoning the territory, but continues to function as a logistical hub in the region,” he said. “Hopefully they will find a buyer or lessee soon to re-operate the multi-million-dollar state of the art fish processing facility.

“Fishery will continue to play an important part in our economy, and we should do all we can to sustain our fishing industry,” the DOC director said.

Lafaele points out that it’s “important to diversify and expand our economy — to include the development of tourism and technology based industry; and it’s important to expand our customer base in our region of the Pacific and source raw materials from the region for value adding in the territory for export overseas.”


In addition to the 2016 GDP, BEA also released Monday estimates of GDP by industry and compensation by industry for 2015. A footnote in the BEA data notes that these estimates  — for 2016 and 2015 — are based on limited source data and subject to revision.

BEA notes that the estimates of GDP by industry for American Samoa show that both the private sector and government sector expanded in 2015, due to growth in manufacturing industries and in the territorial government.

Additionally, the growth in manufacturing (14.5% in 2015) reflected higher output of the canning industry following the opening of a tuna processing plant — referring to Samoa Tuna Processors Inc.

Furthermore, the growth in the government sector reflected an increase (of 1.9%) in territorial government compensation.

According to BEA data, total compensation in 2015 stood at $311 million with $126 million in private industries — covering manufacturing and non-manufacturing — and $185 in government sector, with $168 million for territorial government and $17 million for federal government.

For comparison, in 2014 total compensation was $297 million — with $119 million in private industries and $178 million in government (both territorial and federal). Between 2007 and 2015, the highest total compensation of employees by industry was recorded in 2015.

BEA noted that estimates for 2013 to 2015 that were released on August 8, 2016 have been revised in order to incorporate improvements to source data, including newly available:

•     trade data from the ASG Commerce Department;

•     territorial government spending from government financial statements; and

•     wage information from the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns

In moving forward, an agreement between Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs and BEA will extend and improve the estimates of GDP for American Samoa.

The information provided by the American Samoa Government will continue to be critical to the successful production of these estimates.

BEA says it currently plans to release GDP estimates for 2017 beginning in the summer of 2018. GDP by industry and compensation by industry estimates for 2016 will also be released at the same time.

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