“IS THERE REALLY A ‘REAL’ ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT EFFORT?”
The achievements of the American Samoa Chamber of Commerce have been minimum to nothing in convincing the government to take effective action on economic development business aspects. We cannot blame the current president for this, because it doesn’t matter who the next officers are, this trend will continue unless the “heavyweights” of the American Samoa business community push for any development.
The Chamber of Commerce has between 80 – 90 registered members, but in the few meetings that I attended, I have not seen more than 20 members attend. From the main businesses, only StarKist has been participating in discussions. The other major “heavyweights” in the business community, such as wholesalers/ larger businesses like Halecks, Reids, Aveinas, Kruses, KS, Ace American Industries, Tautua Mo Oe, Cost U Less, Tools Inc., etc. , if they do go to meetings, they are pretty quiet and are not major factors in discussions.
Why? Very simple, these businesses apparently are so prosperous that they are happy with what they have — no fear of losing business the way things are, and are not interested in new businesses coming in. What other reason can explain the lack of effort from this group to promote business development?
For example, when the idea of a new bank came out, the big businesses didn’t need the government’s studies, the government’s guidance or financing. They put a plan together and their monies and pushed for a new bank. All of them are part or partners in the creation of this safe box to put their monies and conduct business from it.
Again, I ask, why do they not jump this fast to develop new businesses? They don’t need it. They are making enough money, and other businesses can come in and share what they have. The only ones developing new businesses are the Chinese who are importing and doing their own businesses — growing by the day and taking business away from some of the wholesalers.
The use of the Chamber has been for us small businesses to send our issues of need to for the government to hear, but the government knows that we are small contributors in taxes and to political campaigns. We don’t have the resources of the larger companies, so the government’s ears are smaller to us.
The heavy ones don’t need the government like the small businesses and common public, the government NEEDS THEM. The “heavyweights” can get the governor or any of his advisors at any time they want. Practically, they set the time, especially in an administration that is running as if we are in a re-election campaign already.
The larger companies can go and discuss their unique problems personally with the Governor. They don’t need Iu or Fiu or Liu or any other advisor to set up an appointment for them. They don’t need the Chamber of Commerce vehicle for an appointment. They call and set the time, and they are in.
Is there really a real economic development effort? I have seen many committees to study a plan, no results yet, and this government has been 10 months in power and counting. It sounds like a conspiracy between the government and the large businesses if nothing happens. Too many coincidences together make a truth.
The idea of development has been slightly geared towards tourism, because I have not seen a plan from the government to offer the tourism industry what the tourists are looking for. What do we have to offer? The typical tourists look for nice beaches, great golf courses, nice resorts, great shopping, etc. Do we have any of these to offer? What is the government doing about these issues? If you add the high cost of transportation to get here, we have a minus. Some people will say, what about our beautiful views … please, we have that, but its cheaper to see that and more in the Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa with resorts, beaches, golf courses, etc., etc.
Again, what do we have to offer? We get happy with a bunch of palagis that don’t spend much money that come on the cruise ships. It is ‘something’, but nothing to cover or improve the economy of a group of islands that require annual subsidies from the U.S. government of approximately $500,000,000.00 (count the zeroes).
Several projects were presented during political campaigns, and the Afoa group was the only one with specific plans for economic development. We lost. After helping the current administration to win, there is nothing to reciprocate for, so we really lost, and people are starting to realize that American Samoa also lost.
Is there really a sincere effort to develop? Apparently, we will continue with studies and promises that will go into the next administration which by the way… Governor Lolo will win by giving jobs to every family on the island of Tutuila and every Manuan available. Is that a development plan or political campaign plan? Think about this with an open mind. Are these facts? Do they make sense?
Carlos Sanchez, a concerned resident