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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A Samoa News’ reader made the following query:

As reported in the Samoa News issue, Aug. 30, 2021 — ‘Senate continues push to raise leaders salaries and allowances’ — “Tuaolo said the $1 million allocation is now in the hands of the Fono, which can do with it what it wishes and suggested restoring the original language of the bill, which increases salaries of the governor and lt. governor.

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i said that about $600,000 of the $1 million allocated to the Fono will fund the office allowance increase for lawmakers, leaving enough funds to cover the salary increases for governor and lt. governor if agreed to by the Senate."

The acting governor, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale is providing $1 million out of last year's surplus. This allocation is a one-time event. The salary increases for the Governor and LT are lifetime events. How are they proposing to pay for it in future years?

Samoa News response:

It’s a question one could basically ask of all the pay raises that are going into effect across the board in government. How are they proposing to pay for the raises in future years? After the COVID-19 funding runs out? After our population drops below 50,000? After we are unable to sustain an industry beyond fisheries?

Right now the government is flush with funds due to federal COVID-19 projects and programs coming into the territory. In some cases, even matching fund criteria has been adjusted lower, allowing the ASG to use federal funds with very little local funding required as part of the money for the said project or program, i.e. Medicaid and other DPW projects.

Further, unless ASG is able to attract more business investment into the territory it basically has a ‘shrinking’ tax base, as per the latest population count by the Department of Commerce — from 55 to 53 thousand. The territory currently does not have a growing population (births are low and people are leaving for jobs & medical), nor does it have a growing economic base (they are still trying to sell bandwidth from their Hawaiiki cable investment).

Without preaching to the choir, the fact is: ASG has ideas, it has wishes — not necessarily original ones,  but, none of that matters, without these ideas or wishes made flesh. That’s Economics 101; while Econ102 makes you ask the question ’for whom does the bell toll?’.

The answer has always been, “Not for me … because I’m the one that should have the big salary.”