2 Mar 2006

American Samoa warned about dependence on canneries

4:33 pm on 2 March 2006

A top US official says the American Samoan economy will be devastated if the territory's two canneries leave.

The assessment was given by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs, Papalii David Cohen, in testimony before a US Senate committee.

Mr Cohen says the demise of the canning industry would leave American Samoa with no viable industry and no major employer other than the local government and the merchants that sell to it and its employees.

At least in the short run, he says, this would leave American Samoa almost wholly dependent on direct assistance from the US government.

Mr Cohen warns that it would likely result in an increase in federal assistance to the territory, as well as significant migration by US national residents of the territory to Hawaii or other West Coast states in search of work and benefits.

He says the territory urgently needs to wean its economy from excessive dependence on the canneries before they actually depart.