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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (October 2, 2001 - Marshall Islands Journal/PINA Nius Online)---Marshall Islands investments in the American stock market have suffered "staggering" losses since the terrorist attacks in the United States.

The value of nuclear test victims' funds and of the Marshall Islands Social Security retirement fund have all dropped dramatically in the past two weeks.

Asked about the level of the losses, Bikini nuclear test compensation trust liaison Jack Niedenthal said: "In a word, 'staggering'."

He estimated that losses to the three Bikini trust funds at about $20 million. Earlier this month, prior to the terrorist attacks in the U.S., the Bikini trust funds amounted to $190 million, he said.

Social Security's investments in Wall Street suffered similarly, dropping from $26 million last month to $23 million. A valuation of the fund late last year, when it stood at $29 million, warned that the retirement fund was seriously under-capitalized to meet anticipated present and future retirement payments totaling more than $190 million.

Neither Ministry of Finance nor Nuclear Claims Tribunal officials had received an update from the fund managers on the status of the Marshall Islands nuclear investment compensation fund. It stood at approximately $49 million at the end of August.

Based on the 10-12 percent decline in the Bikini and Social Security funds, the nuclear fund has dropped to the $43 million level, with the final $4.5 million quarterly payment due next month. This closes out 15 years of quarterly payments under the Compact of Free Association to the four atolls, the Tribunal and medical care.

Niedenthal said that 2001 had been a bad year for Wall Street investments even before the terrorist strikes on September 11. The U.S. economy was heading for a recession even before the attacks, he said.

The outlook isn't likely to improve much in the short term, as the uncertainty of what will happen from an anticipated American military response won't immediately improve investor confidence, he indicated.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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