13 Feb 2020

American Samoa calls on US for more help with disaster resilience, economy

4:57 pm on 13 February 2020

American Samoa has called on the US for more help in building the territory's resilience to disasters and diversifying its economy.

American Samoa's Lt Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga at the Pago Pago launch of Talofa Airways

American Samoa's Lt Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga. Photo: RNZI/Monica Miller

The territory's statement was presented yesterday to the annual meeting of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas and focused on seven areas of economic concern.

Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga presented the statement to the group, which advises the president on federal policies for US territories.

American Samoa expressed concern about uncertainty over the tax credit for the Starkist fish cannery, a major employer in American Samoa.

Congress recently extended the credit but American Samoa wants a permanent credit.

The territory also wants to set its own minimum wages and is calling on Congress to reinstate Special Industry Committees to adjust wage rates.

The historic Medicaid boost from $11m to $84m this fiscal year and next will provide a big boost to local medical services and help American Samoa fill "dangerous gaps" in service facilities, according to the statement.

American Samoa is also calling for greater equability in high seas fishing agreements and revocation of the Ocean Monument and Sanctuaries expansion.

The territory wants Congress to empower the Department of Transportation to issue a long-term cabotage waiver to American Samoa to help it lower air fares and boost tourism.

It is also seeking greater federal help in diversifying its local economy, including through domestic air transport and business outsourcing.

Lemanu told the group that American Samoa appreciates recent federal disaster aid but it needed more help with its vulnerability to storms and diseases, like the measles outbreak.

Help should come in the form of "precautionary investments in disaster and emergency resiliency" rather than "reactionary relief funding".

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