Congressman Faleomavaega today announced that after all these years of traveling to Manu’a to assess her many needs, one of the biggest problems why Manu’a continues to lag behind with its overall development is because there has never been any real serious decisions taken by both the executive and legislative branches of the local government to properly determine, for example, how much of this year’s ASG $340 million budget, should be specifically earmarked for Manu’a’s needs.
“Over the years, I suggested to our leaders that Manu’a is always at a disadvantage for development for the simple reason that nowhere are there specific allocations given for Manu’a and also serious benchmarks on the progress or lack of progress on projects that are determined by ASG as needed for funding. Put it another way, I could not find anywhere in this year’s budget of $340 million how much of these funds are actually going to be used for Manu’a,” Faleomavaega said.
“For example, I have stated that American Samoa receive the highest per capita expenditure in federal funding on education per student currently at about $4,200 per annum, while most states get only about $1,000 per capita per student. This year’s Department of Education budget is now set for over $67.7 million - my question is how much of this goes for Manu’a’s educational needs?” Faleomavaega said.
“Another example, for the past ten years, Congress appropriated over $100 million for capital improvement projects for American Samoa. Again, how much of this went for capital improvements in Manu’a? For the same ten-year period, Congress also allocated well over $230 million to provide support primarily for the operations of ASG’s education and health care systems – and, how much of this went to Manu’a? My problem here is that this is not the responsibility of the Congress, but of ASG to determine what its priorities are – and in all this, Manu’a’s needs are always buried somewhere in the budget process,” Faleomavaega added.
“In my opinion, Manu’a always gets the band-aide treatment by ASG. And as I recall, there are two separate and distinct treaties that Tutuila and Manu’a made with the United States years ago. And the question of fairness comes to play – and the only way Manu’a is ever going to receive better treatment and development, is for ASG to be more serious on earmarking monies from both federal funds and local revenues to go specifically for Manu’a’s needs,” Faleomavaega concluded.