ASTCA, LBJ, ASPA — Should semi-autonomous agencies be privatized?
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gubernatorial teams for the Nov. 3rd general election echoed each other’s concerns over the impact on service to the public and the hike in cost, if the ASG semi autonomous agencies — American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority, LBJ Medical Center and the American Samoa Power Authority — are privatized.
“Would you support the privatization of ASTCA, LBJ, or ASPA? Why or why not?” was the 7th and last question posed to the gubernatorial teams during a recent American Samoa Bar Association forum.
LEMANU & TALAUEGA
“Privatization will have to depend on the specifics of the offer for privatization,” was the response from candidate for lieutenant governor, Talauega Eleasalo Va’alele Ale, who points out that “we would like a utility board in place... charged with making sure that the rates” for ASTCA and ASPA, upon privatization “don’t end up escalating to beyond where it’s not affordable to the people of American Samoa.”
With respect to LBJ, “it’s the same answer, depends on the proposal that is made but it’s going to be very difficult to convert the hospital into a fully private entity,” he said. “There will be a lot of impact on our ability to provide health care” with a lot of health services currently free to residents.
NUA & SATELE
Candidate for governor, Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua said the government’s involvement in these three entities is to ensure such service is provided to the community as well as with affordable costs.
He wondered whether the public would be able to pay for these services, if the three entities are privatized — resulting in monopolization of such services without competition.
He also said that residents would probably have no voice in rate-making policies when these services are privatized.
Under the Nua and Satele administration, privatization “will not happen. Why? We have to think of our people,” he said and emphasized that one-company should not monopolize these services.
He points out that companies are still able to provide other types of services relating to medical, communication and utility. “The public and the government must have a voice in rate-making policies,” he said, adding that these three services are key to the survival of local residents.
GAOTEOTE & FAI’IVAE
Candidate for governor, Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau echoed the other candidates’ responses, saying that families would not be able to afford, or won’t have enough left over money to pay for the costs for these services, if they are privatized as companies providing these service will do as they wish when it comes to costs.
He says that currently ASTCA, ASPA and LBJ depend on the government if they encounter difficulties or problems. He said he and his running mate and candidate for lieutenant governor, Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet do not believe that these three entities of government are prepared and ready for privatization.
I’AULUALO & TAPAAU
Candidate for governor, I’aulualo Fa’afetai Talia said there’s a need to be very careful when it comes to privatizing these services provided by the government.
For LBJ, he explained that there are other types of services the hospital provides that can be privatizes, noting that in their campaign platform the I’aulualo and Tapaau team advocate moving some hospital services to non-profit status.
He explained that having some of these service come under a not-for-profit umbrella would qualify them for other funding sources that would further improve local health care. However, that doesn’t take away government involvement, as there is only one medical center in the territory.
For ASPA, “it’s absolutely no. We all depend on energy,” he said.
As for ASTCA, he said there is already privately owned-Bluesky, which” is way up there” at the top , compared to ASTCA way on the bottom. He stressed that there has to be competition in order to keep costs of service low.
“I’aulualo and Tapaau are considering, probably, a private-public partnership. We’ll look very closely into that,” he said and echoed other candidates that the government still needs to be involved to ensure that all these services continue and are affordable.