Budget to fund employing graduates in private sector
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has revealed that the American Samoa Government’s final budget for fiscal year 2014 takes into consideration the business community, with about $1 million to help employ in the private sector college graduates, who are unable to find jobs in the territory,
The governor, speaking at last Thursday’s cabinet meeting, also urged those ASG agencies and departments involved in collection, to be “forceful” in enforcing the law when it comes to collecting revenue owed to the government.
One of the many issues the governor spoke about during the cabinet meeting dealt with the FY 2014 budget, which Samoa News understands, should be completed today before it goes to the ASG Print Shop to be published and sent to the Fono sometime soon.
Lolo told directors that the administration’s thinking behind developing the budget “is to give hope to our business community that there is hope for them to get into business and provide more... for our people.”
“What should be reflected in the budget is improving the buying power into our economy, so business can rely on [it]. That will also entice [foreigner] investors to come into our economy,” he said and revealed that the difference between the FY 2013 and FY 2014 budget “is well over $20 million and most of that [in FY 2014] goes into programs where we develop our economy, to move up to the next step.”
Lolo didn’t reveal any other specifics about the budget or the total final budget for FY 2014. He did acknowledge, “We may have a high budget in my opinion” for the new fiscal year but, “it doesn’t really matter what numbers we have, it depends on these basic things: how well we enforce the laws, how well we enforce the collections, and how well we control our activities.”
Even if there is a budget in the billions of dollars if there is no control imposed, “It makes no sense at all,” he said and urged all agencies involved in collections “to be forceful” in collection and “enforce the laws — get more money.”
“And on the control side, we need tight control in order for us to be successful throughout the budget year,” he said. “Our thinking is that when we have the resources, let’s move forward and use them. When we don’t, let’s pull back and control.”
“It’s the only way we can put money into our economy and there are some interesting programs in those things. One of the key programs that we promised the private sector that we will have, is to shift the driving power behind our economy to the private sector.”
For example, he said about $1 million is appropriated in the budget to help pay salaries for college graduates who are not employed. He called on college graduates with Bachelors or higher degrees that don’t have jobs to register with the Department of Human Resources, so that ASG has a roster of names.
Lolo said the list will be given to the private sector and see if they want to hire anyone and ASG will pay half of the salary while the business pays the other half.
“And after a year or so, we’ll prepare a tax plan, where they (the business) can get a break, for every dollar they spent to employ that person,” he said and noted that this program will not only provide management skills and leadership into the private sector but “will also promote private sector to become a stronger backbone for our economy.”
During the cabinet meeting the governor didn’t say when the administration plans to send the final budget to the Fono, but he did say, “We’ll be going to the Fono in the next few weeks.”
“When you are called in to testify, make sure you testify according to the budget. We speak with one voice, we work with one voice, and we move with one voice,” said Lolo, who added that he does not want to be faced with an experience like the ASG Treasurer and the Office of Budget and Planning director giving contradicting testimony.
Additionally, a department director might testify in the Fono that their budget was submitted with a certain amount but was turned down by the Budget Office.
“You don’t do that. As long as you work under this administration, you come to us, you don’t go to the Fono,” he told directors. “But when you go directly to the Fono and do that, then we know you’re not part of the team.
“We like to work together as a team, and we’ll succeed as a team,” said Lolo, adding that any questions by directors regarding their budget should be directed to the Budget Office, Treasury and Commerce Department leaders - who are involved in the process.
During Lolo’s tenure as Senate President — several years ago, there were cabinet directors who appeared at hearings saying that they needed more money to cover their operations but were turned down by the Budget Office and the Governor’s Office at the time.
There were also directors who asked lawmakers to help with additional funding for their budgets because they could not go above the budget ceiling set by the Governor’s Office.
Lolo would tell these directors, during Fono budget hearings, that these are issues and requests directed to the Executive Branch, not to the Fono.
Accordingly, for his first term as governor and his first budget submission as chief executive, Lolo wants to prevent any contradicting testimony by directors or any unnecessary verbal requests given to the Fono during budget hearings.
Whether directors of the Lolo administration will comply with the governor’s directive is something that will only be known during budget hearings, which won’t be scheduled until the Fono receives the final FY 2014 budget.