Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that Chairman Nick Rahall of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Chairwoman Donna Christensen of the Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Insular Affairs have joined with him in sending a letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne requesting that technical assistance funds be made available for the purposes of conducting a comprehensive economy study for American Samoa.
The full text of the Members’ letter which was copied to Senators Inouye, Akaka, Bingaman, Governor Togiola, the President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House, and which has been distributed to the Fono is included below, and posted at www.house.gov/faleomavaega.
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We respectfully request that the Department of the Interior make available technical assistance funds for the purpose of conducting a comprehensive economic study for the U.S. territory of American Samoa. Such a study, with a subsequent report, will help strengthen the foundations for economic development and allow policy makers to better understand the American Samoa economy.
Currently, the lack of available and accessible economic data has become a critical issue for all U.S. territories, but especially for American Samoa. For example, in the ongoing minimum wage debate, the facts of the matter are there have been no periodical economic surveys or other key indicators taken in American Samoa that would inform policymakers of the labor market or the state of the island’s economy. This situation has made identifying and assessing the impact of minimum wage increases on American Samoa complicated (See Attachment; Miller/Kennedy to Chao – 3/14/08). As a result, no one can make a supportable determination whether further minimum wage increases will lead to economic deterioration or drastic fiscal changes in American Samoa.
We are certain you would agree that the absence of such data disables the local government from undertaking any initiatives for economic development. However, a comprehensive economic study of American Samoa would further the government’s understanding of critical needs and provide it with information to plan and respond to challenges. Moreover, it would assist the American Samoan government in its efforts to expand and diversify its economy through private sector initiatives. Access to such data inexorably improves government productivity and efficiency, as the ability to forge sounder economic policies with broader social benefits is heightened.
For these reasons, we believe that the Department of the Interior should utilize technical assistance funds to conduct a comprehensive economic evaluation and concluding report for American Samoa. Fostering broader, open access to research data will greatly enhance the quality and productivity of the American Samoan government and its work to develop sound and sustainable economic development plans. We appreciate your commitment to improving American Samoa and your willingness to work with its leaders, and us, in taking this initiative to clarify our understanding of he islands’ economy and the challenges which lie ahead.
Mr. Rahall, Ms. Christensen, and Faleomavaega concluded their letter by stating, “We are grateful for your consideration of this important matter.”