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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 1, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---The year 2000 saw the strengthening of relations between Samoa and American Samoa, said Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in his January 1st message to the people of Samoa.

Tuilaepa’s annual New Year’s message was broadcast on the Samoa government-owned Radio 2AP and monitored in nearby American Samoa.

"I wish to record my sincere appreciation to the Governor and the government of American Samoa for their part in revitalizing arrangements mutually beneficial to the two Samoas," the Prime Minister said.

"I look forward to maintaining the excellent dialogue we have now established between our two countries," he added.

According to Tuilaepa, the "general standard of living in Samoa has improved considerably as compared to the past."

He said his government has laid down clear policies and programs for the sustained future development of Samoa to ensure that there is no back-sliding on the welfare and the prosperity of the nation with a population of 170,000.

The Prime Minister explained that the Samoa government’s economic strategy is designed to assist private enterprises and individual persons in their efforts to develop the various sectors of the country’s economy.

He pointed out that their collective contribution to the economy will "raise the overall quality of life of our people," the ultimate improvement in the welfare of the Samoan people.

He further explained that this is also the key consideration in the fiscal management of the government as reflected in its budget and its policies to reduce tariffs and income taxes, the re-alignment of rewards for services and the top priority status given to the education and health sectors.

"But the government also recognizes clearly the need to provide support for our elderly people who have retired from active service to our country, and who more than deserve an old age pension," said Tuilaepa.

An important task to be completed in the next two years is the government’s public service reforms. The reforms would allow departmental managerial decision-making to be done by department heads instead of the country’s public service commission.

Parliament amended the country’s constitution on December 21 to reflect these new changes.

"The ultimate intention of these results is the further improvement of the quality of government services and their efficient delivery to our people," Tuilaepa explained.

He reflected that it is the government’s responsibility to establish an environment that would help its citizens develop economically.

"To ensure that the government continues to meet this commitment requires a public service able to respond quickly and effectively to meet the changing requirements of today’s modern society," he pointed out.

But despite all these efforts, Tuilaepa continued, there are times when these strategies are not completely realized due to unforeseen setbacks and unavoidable problems.

However, he added, the government will not sidestep from responding firmly to resolve difficulties when they threaten the welfare and prosperity of the country.

Tuilaepa also acknowledged the main financial aid received from foreign governments, such as Australia and New Zealand, and international agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

"Samoa will continue to need the kind of support from these national and international agencies in the development of our country in this coming year and the years ahead," he said.

In closing his remarks, Tuilaepa extended New Year’s greetings to His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II, members of Parliament and the people of Samoa.

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