“SEN. LAOLAGI RESPONDS TO AVAMUA DAVID HALECK”

Dear Editor,

I appreciate Mr. Dave Haleck’s response to my media response to Mr. Sanitoa’s political comments on their [Faoa & Sanitoa gubernatorial team] radio talk show last week.  While I respect Mr. Haleck’s point of view, I wish that Mr. Haleck did not try to interpret Mr. Sanitoa’s comments and try to speak on Mr. Sanitoa’s behalf. I believe he totally misinterpreted Mr. Sanitoa’s comments and misconstrued the nature of my response to Mr. Sanitoa’s political comments. 

To be clear, Mr. Sanitoa stated, “We can’t establish and operate a bank in the territory without FDIC insurance.” By this — and many other comments — he specifically questioned the legality and the viability of establishing a financial institution here in the territory. 

Mr. Haleck is a businessman for whom I have a very high regard and respect. He and his family have many accomplishments that have contributed a lot to our local economy, to the benefit of our people.  And Mr. Haleck’s view on economic issues is invaluable to me — but not as an interpreter of someone else’s view.

With that said, during the course of legislative hearings held on the above issue, it is fair to say — and for Mr. Haleck to know – that I and several members of the Fono looked into the FDIC requirements. In doing so, we discovered that FDIC has not issued an approval on over 90% of new bank applications since 2009. Obtaining an application approval for a new bank has proven extremely difficult since the financial crisis in 2008.

Recently, the Congressional House Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Reform has held a series of hearings on the Oversight of the FDIC Application Process. Many members of the banking association community throughout the nation have testified on the burden of the FDIC’s rigid application rules. Our territory community should join in support of the national banking association community in calling for FDIC to relax its application requirements for new banks. 

I have never thought that the establishment of a community bank was a bad idea. In fact I fully support your effort. But the complexity of politics in Washington D.C., coupled with the rigid application requirements of the FDIC, was a major stumbling block in your efforts, which made it difficult for you and the good people of the community bank to swiftly obtain approval for your application to FDIC.

Regardless of the reasons, which caused the withdrawal of your application from FDIC, the banking needs of our people remain unresolved.

I recognize the people’s desperate outcry regarding their banking needs, which I hear from all directions — churches, family fa’alavelaves, villages, district meetings and the people in general when I visit the bank to do my family and church banking.

This has reaffirmed my commitment and steadfast support of the legislation that authorized the establishment of locally chartered banks and establishment of the Territorial Bank of American Samoa.

As a member of the Fono and a representative of the constituents of my district, I strongly believe that government should take on the responsibility to address the needs of the people when the system fails, and with the realization that sometimes the costs might outweigh the means. 

Needless to say, I hope Mr. Haleck and the good people of the community bank will not stop their effort and I would encourage them to open a dialogue with the new Territorial Bank, as I would support any effort that would eventually create a joint partnership of the private sector and the government in this endeavor.

It is not a bad thing to let the government allocate resources to initiate the process, with a hope that our local private sector will eventually join in.

There is nothing political about that.

Senator Laolagi Savali Vaeao

 

 

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