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Lolo says the govt's financial position has been 'positively transformed'

[l-r] Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale, and Chief Justice Michael KruseCongresswoman Aumua AmataThe DPS honor guard

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Government ended fiscal year 2018 — which closed on Sept. 30, 2018 — with a “positive” General Fund balance of $3.97 million, according to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, speaking about ASG’s financial status as part of his State of the Territory Address at the official opening of the 36th Legislature.

Lawmakers convened in a joint session yesterday at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium where Lolo delivered a summary of his oral address in Samoan while a separate official written address — in both English and Samoan — was handed out to lawmakers and others.

Lolo noted that money is the lifeline of any government and then gave a summary of ASG’s finances, saying that when the Administration took office on Jan. 3, 2013, which was already the start of the second quarter of fiscal year 2013, the general fund had a negative balance of over $7.88 million.

But at the close of FY 2013, the negative general fund balance was reduced down to over $4.80 million — reflecting more than $3.07 million of deficit eliminated.

At the same time, the government needed to move forward with improvement work in areas such as roads and school facilities in FY 2014. At the close of FY 2014, the general fund negative balance grew by more than $8.35 million, registering a deficit balance of over $13.15 million.

However, there were changes to come, with Lolo saying that at the end of FY 2015, the negative balance dropped to a total of $9.1 million and it was further decreased — to a total of $3.1 million — at the end of FY 2016.

“At the end of FY 2017, the general fund balance, for the first time, was a positive $786,300; erasing the longstanding historical trend of negative general fund balances, and placing our government on a solid financial footing,” the governor said.

And that trend continued to the following fiscal year, closing out FY 2018 with a positive balance of over $3.1 million, he said.

At the close of FY 2018 “estimated recorded general fund balance” totaled over $3.97 million, said Lolo, referring to the total positive balance for FY 2017 and FY 2018.

In his official written address, Lolo said that since FY 2009, the government has maintained a negative general fund balance, but this trend ended in FY 2017.

"We are confident that the implemented corrections to our financial systems, along with our resolve to confine spending to actual revenue collections, will assure the continuation of this favorable progression in our efforts to stabilize the government’s financial operation and rebuilding our government’s financial integrity and credibility,” he continued.

While the financial position of the central government has been “positively transformed”, Lolo said “we are especially mindful that the Authorities are financially struggling attributed in part to reductions in subsidy payments [from ASG], which were tied to actual revenue collections and the reduction in their respective revenue base due to the alternative energy impacts.”

It is therefore “our plan to work with the Authorities to stabilize their financial domains in the coming years, to ensure that our overall vision of financial accountability, financial transparency, and financial integrity will be achieved.”

The governor notes that the commitment to financial prudence and building financial integrity for ASG “will remain one of our top priorities as we continue our journey towards securing a prosperous future for the coming generations.”

To achieve this goal, Lolo explained that the Treasury Department, Office of Program Planning and Budget, Procurement Office, and Human Resources, together with all ASG entities, must collaborate to achieve total accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness of all government processes.

Lolo reminded lawmakers that challenges will continue to be formidable “because our economic base is restrictively narrow; precipitated by extremely limited economic possibilities; compelled primarily by federal regulations designated for the [US] mainland’s landscape, with very little relevance to American Samoa with regard to developable natural resources and the tyranny of distance from the economic mainstream.”

“Invariable, the full burden associated with the development of our financial economic base falls squarely on our shoulders, despite the continual annual inflow of federal funds to support the delivery of infrastructural and social services channeled through capital improvement projects, direct subsidy, discretionary and other federal grants,” he said.

The governor made clear that this achievement is a collaborative effort of all three branches of government.

Samoa News will report this week on other issues from the governor’s address.