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Lemanu looking to new U.S. policies to “reenergize” local economy

Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga
Vision is to develop tech-based industry to create diversification

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga is hoping that changes in fiscal and economic policies by US President Joe Biden will reenergize the local economy as there are some issues, which need U.S government support to sustain federal incentives of benefit to the territory.

The governor made the statement in his “Executive Summary” of the fiscal year 2022 final budget report to the Fono last week Monday, under the header “Economic Outlook”.

Lemanu told lawmakers that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate global economies including the United States with high unemployment and especially with the new COVID variants that continue to create uncertainty over future economic prospects.

For American Samoa, he pointed out that risks remain with the cannery operation such as the automatic minimum wage increases, the federal 30(A) tax emption status, shrinking fishing grounds and environmental enforcement.

“Rather, it is our hope that the change in fiscal and economic policies by the Biden Administration will reenergize our economic environment,” said Lemanu, who cited what America Samoa needs from the federal government.

Those needs include that the federal government “sustain federal incentives” such as the 30(A) Tax Credit; repeal the automatic hike in federal minimum wage and leave it to local jurisdiction to decide; grant American Samoa a Cabotage waiver allowing foreign carriers to operate between the territory and US airports; reopen high seas fishing; reduce the size of ocean monuments and “establish more economically sensitive enforcement polices” for U.S Environmental Protection Agency and US Coast Guard rules and regulations.

Despite the “uncertainty,” the governor said that meeting demand in production based on existing contracts including niche markets will provide some stability in operations and the guest worker permit program will help meet needed capacity at StarKist Samoa.

Additionally, ASG’s investment in the Hawaiki cable “continues to be an important pillar of our economy with the vision to develop the technology-based industry thereby creating diversification and reducing our sole dependence on the fishing industry.”

According to the governor, excess capacity of Hawaiki cable “must be used by startup business ventures with incentives to lure them from off island. If done right, this will be a spring board to drive job creation.”

The governor also said that the windfall of federal aid — especially through COVID related money — received by ASG will certainly stimulate the economy and create job growth. “In addition and equally important, the local government will continue its aggressive efforts to establish labor intensive industries to provide employment opportunities for our people,” he pointed out.

Furthermore, the allocation of funding for the increase in payroll compensation will provide economic stimulus by providing more income to help families in the territory.

The increase in payroll compensation referred to by the governor, deals with ASG’s new minimum wage increase to $7.25 per hour, which was effective July 1st — as well as the reclassification of non-educator degree holders hiking their starting salaries — for those with AA degrees, it is $19,000; BA is $28,000 and MA is set at $35,000.