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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (December 14, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios told a U.S. Senate Committee hearing at the beginning of December that the RMI government has already proposed a range of measures to U.S. State Department negotiators to improve monitoring of the spending of U.S. funds in the RMI under a future Compact funding agreement.

"This time we want to see a system in place and implemented from the outset that ensures the legitimate interests of the U.S. are protected while ensuring that the sovereign rights of the RMI are respected," Zackios told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

He also said that the RMI has proposed establishing a U.S.-RMI Joint Economic Review Board to perform annual reviews of economic development programs.

"We believe that the board should use a Performance Scorecard covering a range of socio-economic indicators to monitor, evaluate and report on the progress of the RMI economy," he said.

"We have requested that the U.S. appoint two additional staff members at the U.S. Embassy in Majuro to act as liaisons on Compact related matters."

He said an increased U.S. staff presence coupled with strengthened auditing and enforcement will improve financial management on an ongoing basis.

"We do not think that it is in the interests of either the RMI or the U.S. to wait another 13 years before such a comprehensive review is undertaken," he said.

He also restated the RMI's interest in extending the Compact’s security and defense provisions beyond 15 years.

Other key points ad dressed by Zackios include:

§ the call for establishment of a Kwajalein Trust Fund and greater shared effort dedicated to the special needs of Ebeye.

§ the RMI is prepared to discuss certain "non-expiring" provisions of the Compact with a "view toward further improving the very successful relationship that already exists."

§ health status has improved in the RMI in recent years, and the new Ebeye Health Center, scheduled to open in early 2002, "will be second to none in the Pacific."

§ the government has "made some misjudgments" - where direct government investment in commercial enterprises was not successful. "We have learned from these mistakes and government policy is to avoid such investments and focus more on creating an enabling environment for the development of the private sector," he said.


Zackios opened his statement by saying bluntly: "The Compact of Free Association is a success."

He added that while there "are always those who seek to find fault and it is true that our progress has by no means been ideal, I firmly believe that any objective evaluation of free association can only conclude that our unique relationship is a success."

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

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