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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (December 21, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---The Ministry of Finance's cash-flow situation is the best it's been in years, according to top Finance officials.

The development is the result, primarily, of two reasons:

§ significantly increased local revenues as a result of better tax collections and enforcement of penalty provisions.

§ during 2001, Finance staff have gained reimbursement from U.S. federal agencies for grants dating back as far as five years.

Finance officials indicated that payment of penalty fees rose above $300,000 in fiscal year 2001, a more than four-fold increase over the previous year.

Overall, government revenue in 2001 was $900,000 above the projection at the beginning of the year; the Ministry of Finance ended the year with $2 million over expenditures, which Finance Secretary Saeko Shoniber attributed to tightening spending controls at the Ministry.

Another key development has been the Ministry's grant office's action to get reimbursement of expenditures from U.S. grants. Shoniber explained that many of the grants the RMI receives from the U.S. are provided on what is known as a "cost reimbursable" basis. This means that the RMI has to submit forms and paper work, or answer questions from U.S. federal agencies in order to get funds released from Washington to reimburse the Ministry of Finance for money already spent.

According to Finance official Casten Nemra, numerous grants over the past five years have remained with significant uncollected balances due to the RMI. "Our goal this year was to get reimbursement for grants spent and not paid back," Nemra said. "We put more effort into collecting this year."

He said the amounts involved are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (although because of the delay in collection, some agencies have already closed the books, so the RMI has lost its chance to get reimbursement).

"'This has greatly improved the cash flow at Finance," Shoniber said.

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

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