16 Jan 2019

Governor paints bleak picture of American Samoa economy

5:39 pm on 16 January 2019

The American Samoa governor has told the joint opening of the 36th legislature that the state of the economy is not good and the territory is still reeling from the effects of the closure of two canneries.

Lolo Moliga at the 2019 Fono opening.

Lolo Moliga at the 2019 Fono opening. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Monica Miller

Samoa Packing wound up operations in 2009 and Samoa Tuna Processors did so in 2016.

Lolo Moliga said the territory's economy is still based on two pillars, the now sole cannery and the government but he is hoping that a third pillar will be added.

The governor listed some of the issues plaguing the StarKist Samoa, including Coast Guard and environmental regulations, and a minimum wage of over $US5.56 per hour compared to other tuna producing countries which pay an hourly wage of $US1.

Lolo also referred to the $US6.9 million fine that StarKist had to pay for environmental violations but said a positive was that for the first time the territory received a potion of the fine.

The governor told lawmakers that StarKist needs all the help it can get, because 5,000 jobs depended on the survival of the cannery .

The Governor's State of the Territory address also mentioned that investment in the Hawaiki Cable reflected government efforts to creat a third economic pillar to reduce economic volatility.

Warning against abuse of freedom of speech in American Samoa

Meanwhile, President of the American Samoa Senate warned against the abuse of freedom of speech during his reply to the State of the Territory address.

Gaoteote Tofau Palaie said people should not let their freedom of speech deny them of the traditional respect for each other.

Gaoteote also sent out a warning to members of the legislature who speak critically in public.

He said working together would sustain political careers but working alone would stunt their growth.

Gaoteote used the analogy of the native mamala tree and how seedlings that fell closer to the mother tree grew strong and flourished while those that fell far did not last.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs