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American Samoa’s GDP grows by 4% in 2020 after years of decline

Bureau of Economic Analysis
Cannery production and ASG COVID spending fueled growth

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “Activity related to the tuna canning industry was a significant source of growth in the American Samoa economy,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) when releasing yesterday statistics on the territory’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2020.

BEA, a bureau of the U.S Commerce Department announced that American Samoa’s GDP increased 4.0% in 2020 after decreasing 0.6% in 2019.  And the GDP statistics were developed under the Statistical Improvement Program funded by the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The increase in real GDP for 2020 reflected widespread growth among the major components of GDP including exports, private inventory investment, and government spending, according to a BEA statement, which also states that these increases were partly offset by an increase in imports, which is a subtraction item in the calculation of GDP.

BEA noted that the canning industry's operations in American Samoa were less affected by the COVID-19 pandemic when compared to other parts of the world.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the 2020 COVID-19 Emergency Declarations, the first issued in March last year, exempted StarKist Inc., and related industries from restrictions in business operation hours.

BEA said that in 2020, exports of goods increased 15.5%, reflecting an increase in exports of canned tuna and related products. Furthermore, private inventory investment increased, reflecting growth in supplies held by the tuna canning industry.

Regarding government spending, BEA said it increased 10.1%; and the increase is accounted for by growth in territorial government spending.

“Spending by the American Samoa government was supported by federal grant revenues, including Coronavirus Relief Fund payments,” says BEA.

As to the COVID-19 impact on the 2020 American Samoa GDP estimate, BEA said the territory’s economy was affected by the government response to the global pandemic.

For example, the territorial government instituted a number of restrictions, such as border closures, and the federal government passed several laws to support and sustain businesses and individuals through the pandemic.

“However, the full effects of the pandemic cannot be quantified in BEA's statistics for American Samoa because the impacts are generally embedded in the data sources used to estimate the components of GDP,” it says.

Also released yesterday by BEA is the breakdown of the 2019 GDP by industry and compensation. Samoa News will report in future editions on this information.