American Samoa Governor: Economic Outlook 'Promising', Cites New Job Creation

2 economic development projects funded under the local farming and local fishing subsidy program

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, August 09, 2016) – Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has provided the Legislature the future “economic outlook” for American Samoa that he said is “promising” and cited some of the current and future developments that will provide more local jobs.

The brief economic outlook was outlined in the governor’s 25-page summary letter of the fiscal year 2017 budget proposal sent to the Fono yesterday and lawmakers are expected to raise questions on the status of economic development when budget hearings are scheduled — probably later this month into early next month.
Lawmakers reconvened yesterday after a three-week mid session recess and the FY 2017 budget is a priority for this final session of the 34th Legislature.
According to the governor, the “future economic forecast” for the territory “is promising” as Tri Marine International, continues to increase its labor force. (Tri Marine owns the Samoa Tuna Processors Inc., cannery and have a locally based US flagged purse seiner fleet.)
Additionally, the Phillipines-based AVM Bernardo Engineering has begun construction - at the Tafuna Industrial Park — of its multipurpose food processing plant, which when completed will make available a minimum of 500 new jobs.
Lolo also says that Meredith Development Group is beginning to implement its multifaceted investment program in the field of tourism, agriculture, rental units and others “netting $100 million of investment.”  The governor’s letter provided no other details — such as the owner of Meredith Development Group.
According to the governor, negotiations are ongoing with Datamatics Gobal Service Ltd., on the establishment of a local call center, which will provide appealing jobs for the high school and college graduates. (Officials of Datamatics last year held a recruiting session with local residents as well as meetings with local officials about its plans to set up in the territory a business process outsourcing — similar to a call center operation.)
Furthermore, the establishment of the government owned Territorial Bank of American Samoa (TBAS) would increase business investments in business expansion and entrepreneurship development. (TBAS expects to open later next month at the current location of Bank of Hawaii at the Centennial Building in Utulei.)
Lolo says that there is “optimism over our future economic development prognosis,” however, there are “major impediments that are posing threats to the continued viability” and some of those threats are:
•     threats to the two local tuna canneries;
•     expansion of ocean monuments;
•     continued escalation of the federal minimum wage law;
•     Small Island States’ aggressive attempts to maximize financial returns over the utilization of their executive economic zones; and
•     lapsing federal tax incentives.
Farm and Fishing Subsidy
Under the Special Program budget category, overseen by the Governor’s Office, there are two economic development projects funding with $100,000 each allocated for the local farming and local fishing subsidy program.
For the farming subsidy, the governor says this acts as an incentive scheme to encourage people to farm different agriculture cash crops and produce in order to reduce the territory’s dependency on imported goods.
“From an economic and financial perspective, funds spent to encourage exports abroad and selling of fish and agriculture products within the territory not only remain in American Samoa but also help stimulate economic expansion throughout the territory,” the governor said.
He also says that farmers and government are stakeholders and must collaborate to define activities eligible for the subsidy.”
For the fishing subsidy, he said it’s intended to provide assistance to local fishermen who engage in commercial fishing business. He said ASG and the Fisherman’s Cooperative would continue to maintain on-going collaborations to define and identify the type of needs to necessitate and warrant the support of this subsidy from the government.
Samoa News points out that since the Lolo Administration took office in January 2013, the governor has set aside a subsidy fund for fishing and farming, as part of economic development.

The Samoa News
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