Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that at the invitation of Secretary Ken Salazar of U.S. Department of Interior and Secretary Gary Locke of U.S. Department of Commerce, he joined Rebecca Blank, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at USDOC, Nikolao Pula, Director of Office of Insular Affairs at USDOI, and Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at a press conference announcing the first set of estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Also in attendance were Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Congressman Gregorio Sablan of CNMI, and Congresswoman Donna Christensen of USVI.
“It is hard to believe that after over a hundred years, the U.S. government will finally plan to produce the first report on the GDP for American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said. “American Samoa and our other U.S. Territories have been at a tremendous disadvantage, especially when it comes to determining the most basic data and information on economic statistics and evaluations of the economies of these Territories.”
The data announced in today’s press conference covers the five-year period from 2002-2007. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) who produced the estimates under an agreement signed in March 2009 between USDOI and USDOC, the real GDP (GDP adjusted to remove price changes) grew over this period in each of the territories except for CNMI. American Samoa’s GDP from 2002-2007 grew at an average annual rate of 0.4 percent. By comparison, the average annual growth rate for the United States (excluding the territories) was 2.8 percent over the same period. Furthermore, Guam’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 1.8 percent, and the USVI’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent, while CNMI’s GDP decreased at an average annual rate of 4.2 percent.
During his remarks, Congressman Faleomavaega suggested to USDOI and USDOC producing similar reports for Palau, Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
“I respectfully suggest to Secretary Locke and Secretary Salazar that future GDP estimates be provided for our three freely associates states, all of whom are also an integral part of the American family. The timely release of this information during Asian Pacific Heritage Month further emphasizes the American spirit that everyone counts in the rich fabric of our American society. With that said, it is my hope that the Bureau of Economic Analysis will broaden their research to our Palauan, Marshallese, and Micronesian brothers and sisters in the near future.”
“Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank President Obama, Secretary Locke, and Secretary Salazar for their leadership in making sure our territories are accounted for in GDP estimates. We may be some of the smallest constituencies, however the tremendous sacrifice by the sons and daughters of American Samoa and our fellow territories in the military is just one example that speaks to our patriotism and dedication to defending this nation. In this, and many other ways, we are as much a part of the American family and deserving of the research and analytical tools to assist local efforts on improving our island economies.”
“Today marked a truly historic occasion for all the territories represented. This data will surely assist each of our territorial governments in crafting policy and implementing significant changes for the future well being of some half a million Americans in the insular areas. I look forward to working with Secretary Locke, Secretary Salazar, and Kiran Ahuja and their staffs in the future,” the Congressman concluded.