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ASG needs to focus on “accurate costs” for economic development projects

Former Chamber of Commerce chairman, David Robinson suggests that the American Samoa Government focus on what it wants to do for economic development and to attract investors and “then get its accurate cost” to ensure that it does work.

Several issues were covered during a Samoa News interview early this week with Robinson, who served six terms as Chamber chairman and who has more than a decade in American Samoa is retiring and moving to New Zealand at the end of this month. And Robinson suggested caution on some of the projects ASG is working on with others.

On the issue of duty free exports from the territory as well as what American Samoa has to offer to attract investors, Robinson says that there has been a lot of government talk about the federal tax credit “Head note 3A — where if you add value to  of a certain percentage to products, you can call the product made in the USA and thereby export to the US duty free.”

“But you’ve got to be very careful and do the math, because some of the other costs involved in what you’re trying to do, might out weight the value of sending a product to the US and paying duty,” he cautioned the government.

Additionally, “They’ve been talking about the breadfruit” project, he said and issued caution, “that’s the one that needs to be investigated on the basis of importing raw material here, adding value by milling, packaging and things like that. And then sending the finished product off to the US for turning into other products, or the food products.”

Asked as to the benefits for American Samoa on the breadfruit project, Robinson said, “It would hire people, if they would set up a processing operation here, to process the breadfruit.”

However, “the breadfruit would have to be imported from other Pacific areas, that’s the problem, because there wouldn’t be enough [breadfruit] here to make a plant work,” said Robinson, who during his tenure as chairman was briefed on the project as well as other aspects of it. “The plan was to set up American Samoa as a regional hub, where people would bring in their breadfruit here.”

“Again, you have to be very careful with the math in doing that sort of thing — the cost of transport to bring a low cost product like that here might not be so beneficial,” he said.

Asked as to his suggestion to the government, Robinson said, to “really focus and see what you want to do and then get accurate costs to make sure it does work.”

He then pointed to the Philippines based AVM Bernardo Engineering, which wanted to set up a multipurpose food processing plant in Tafuna and can provide a minimum of 500 jobs once it”s operational.

He said the Filipinos have “been talking about that for years and there’s been no sign of them. And I think it’s very difficult for an organization like that to look at importing low cost items, like fruits and vegetables and then canning them here and then resending it off to other markets.”

“I think those sort of projects like that needs to be accurately costed (out),” said Robinson, who was chairman of the Chamber, when the group’s representatives, during the Togiola Administration, made a presentation to the business group.

There were as well meetings with the Filipino representatives during the Lolo Administration, with the construction of the project now ongoing.