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Government continues to look for ways to increase its revenue base

[SN file photo]
Taxes, changes to laws, etc. all being explored

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has called on his cabinet for the government to depend on itself when it comes to financial resources for projects to expand the local economy, but not on the federal government, which should only be asked when it comes to major projects.

Lolo made the call during Tuesday’s cabinet meeting when he spoke about the ASG Revenue Task Force — chaired by Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale — putting together a presentation next month to the Fono on ways to increase ASG’s revenue base.

Established by the governor in January this year, the six-member task force is charged with reviewing and assessing the effectiveness of all existing revenue generating legislation with respect to the existing economic and financial environment.

The task force then recommends amendments to existing revenue generating legislation deemed to be obsolete and irrelevant in maximizing revenue generation.

At the cabinet meeting, the governor said this “maybe the biggest challenge of this administration in the next four years” — referring to generating revenue.

He also said that he and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Peleti Mauga hope that the outcome of the task force’s work will improve ASG’s financial resources as well as expand the local economy, by the end of their current four-year term.

And that when the current administration leaves, the next administration will have sufficient financial resources available to them to ensure a continued prosperous future for the people and government of American Samoa, Lolo said.

He asked directors not to depend solely on the federal government, which should only be sought if there are major projects, “but things that we can do ourselves, we should give it all our strength and best to get them done.”

Additionally, it’s the goal of the administration to “expand the government’s revenue base” in order to get additional financial resources to improve government service.

Lolo then announced that the task force is preparing to make a presentation to the Fono, next month, on ways to increase ASG’s revenue base, including changes to current law, taxes — to ensure sufficient financial resources for ASG in the future.

He said sufficient financial resources has been the most difficult issue for any administration, including the Lolo/Lemanu Administration, but the important task now is to find solid solutions to expand ASG’s revenue base and improve the local economy moving forward.

After the Fono presentation, the task force will then work on a time frame for a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce; he said adding that input from the Chamber will also be sought.

Lolo said directors will be informed of the actual date of the Fono presentation and they are requested to attend.

In appointing the task force, the governor said the existence of legal measures for the generation and collection of revenues were enacted years ago, and yet the economic and business dynamics have changed continuously, compelling “doubt over their legal sufficiency with respect to maximizing revenue generation for the government.”

Lolo pointed out that in the last four years ASG has begun the process of assessing these revenue measures; and changes have been made to some — such as business licensing fees, corporate tax rates reduction and others.

Besides Talauega, other task force members are ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipea; Budget and Planning Office director Catherine Aigamaua Saelua; Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele; Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Tuia-Poumele; Deputy Treasury for Revenue, Keith Gebauer; and the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira.