FSM HEARINGS ON VARIETY OF ISSUES HELD NATIONWIDE

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By Craig DeSilva

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (December 17, 1999 - FSM Congress Public Information Office/PIDP/CPIS)---Both the Ways and Means Committee and the Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee recently completed public hearings in the states of Kosrae, Yap, and Chuuk on a variety of issues of public concern.

Committee representatives also met with FSM citizens in Saipan.

The Ways and Means Committee’s hearings concerned proposed bills on revising the import tax, the gross revenue tax and the wage and salary tax. Also discussed was President Leo Falcam’s proposed value added tax (VAT) plan.

All three states favor reforms.

The major concern raised pertained to the capabilities of the states and national governments to effectively enforce payment of taxes. Concern also was expressed over exemptions to the import tax.

The Judiciary and Government Operations Committee held hearings regarding revisions to the National Election Code, corporatization of the FSM Postal Services, postal crimes, the national criminal code and procedures for the upcoming national constitutional convention.

Concern was raised over the increasing cost of elections and the proposed revisions to the National Election Code, including the establishment of full-time elections positions.

The proposed corporatization of the Postal Services generated the most discussion. Among the main concerns, from both the public and private sectors, regarding corporatization are: can the Postal Service collect enough revenue to support its own operations and will postal rates increase?

Also at issue is the composition of the upcoming constitutional convention.

Some said the proposed number of 31 convention delegates is too many. Other suggestions, for example, included recommendations that the composition should be 11 from Chuuk, seven from Pohnpei, three from Yap, and two from Kosrae; 23 delegates should be elected at-large in each state; that there should only be 14 elected at-large delegates -- six from Chuuk, four from Pohnpei, two from Kosrae and two from Yap.

Hearings on the same measures will be conducted in Pohnpei during the upcoming special session in January.

At the Saipan meeting, the committees discussed problems and concerns of FSM citizens residing in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands under provisions of the U.S.-FSM Compact of Free Association.

The on-going issue of creating a Liaison Office there was raised.

Also of concern were the problems of obtaining and renewing passports and their increased costs. Some said the new price is too high and that 10 years is too long a period of validity for a child’s passport.

In discussing the problems related to the Liaison Office, Kohne K. Ramon, a Pohnpeian who is now residing in Saipan, suggested that if funding a liaison office is not feasible, then President Falcam should appoint an "Honorary Consul" in Saipan to deal directly with the concerns and problems of FSM citizens there.

Currently, the Consulate Office in Guam extends consular assistance to FSM citizens residing in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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