FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. ----
In his statement on the record for the Department of Labor's Special Industry Committee hearing on the minimum wage in American Samoa, Congressman Faleomavaega called for a different focus and a new strategy on the issue. "Once again this year, the canneries will recommend no increase or minimal increases in the minimum wage. ASG will do the same," said the Congressman. "I support ASG's position, but year after year we all keep saying the same thing," Faleomavaega continued.
The Congressman explained that the question of how high the minimum wage rates for American Samoa should be set was only part of the larger question of how to develop American Samoa's economy. He went on to say, "Clearly, what is needed is a new model, a new strategy which...actively solicits and actively reflects the views and wishes of our people."
In his statement, the Congressman listed a number of initiatives he has taken on the federal level, including introducing legislation to establish a Commission to study and make recommendations on the economic development of American Samoa and introducing legislation to replace the possessions tax credit with other incentives for outside industries.
The Congressman went on to suggest some initiatives at the local level, including privatization of the American Samoa Power Authority and the Office of Communications. "Mr. Aleki Sene proposed to the previous administration that the Office of Communications be privatized," said Faleomavaega. "His proposal has my full support, and I would add only that ASPA, too, should be privatized." The Congressman continued, "ASG could realize as much as $50 million from a properly structured sale, and this money could be used to pay off the...EOB bond and the Retirement Loan. Remaining proceeds could be used to help retire the deficit and as a base for improvements to our infrastructure," he concluded.
Faleomavaega also emphasized the need to correct the rampant abuses in the conduct of certain Samoan-fronted/ foreign-owned businesses who transact their business in cash, leaving no reliable method for ensuring that they pay their fair share of taxes. "These abuses are killing our local businessmen and resulting in lost revenue for ASG which is conservatively estimated at $20 million per year," the Congressman said. "This must stop. We must insist that it stop. As long as we allow these abuses to continue, we are penalizing our local businessmen and depriving our government of much-needed revenue," Faleomavaega concluded.
In closing his statement, the Congressman commended Governor Tauese for his efforts to stabilize the local economy. He said, "He has stayed true to his principles in the face of opposition, and that takes courage. He has refused to compromise when it was important to hold the line, and that takes integrity. He has done his best to improve revenue collection and to ensure that taxes are fairly applied....He has my full support, and I will do everything I can to help him in his efforts to create a better future for the people of American Samoa."