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By Malou L. Sayson

KOROR, Palau (January 15, 1999 - Palau Horizon/Marianas Variety/Edited)---Despite projections that the international economic crisis will take its toll on the country’s economy this year, the carry-over effects of the influx of investments in 1998 remains bullish. Major infrastructure project developers are winding their way toward completing environmental impact statements (EIS) and obtaining earth moving permits before getting their projects under way.

These projects involve golf courses in Airai and other states like Ngchesar, resorts and hotels, and a $149 million, 53 mile compact road.

Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB) Executive Director Lucio Abraham, in an interview, said there are about 10 major projects under study and review by the board for EIS approval, earth moving permits and other environmental requirements before these are allowed to go into the ground breaking phase.

On the average, each of the companies involved must put up an estimated $100,000 for the processing of the EIS in areas which are not yet impacted by any development.

"The trend is going up," said Abraham, referring to the influx of investments in the area of real estate and infrastructure development.

The positive outlook projected by Abraham is based on the number of major projects in the EQPB review pipeline which, he described, as something "aggressive."

These projects, including the development of at least three golf courses, involve 80 percent foreign -- mostly Chinese/Taiwanese, Japanese and American -- and 20 percent local investors.

The EIS of the Ngiwal golf course project, according to Abraham, is now being processed, with its blue prints already presented to the EQPB.

There are also several minor projects which, according to Abraham, total about 30. These projects, combined with the 10 major ones, indicate that infrastructure and real estate development are on the upswing despite the fact that these are primarily the carry-over effect of the 1998’s investment influx.

Abraham stressed, however, that the EQPB, while considering projects for study and review, also is in the process of going over and amending its rules and regulations.

The process of improving them continues, Abraham said, adding that they all are in need of legislation and the approval of the President, Kuniwo Nakamura.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Marianas Variety.

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