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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 6) – Taiwan is set to provide US$800,000 to launch the first "micro credit" scheme in the Marshall Islands.

Marshall Islands Foreign Affairs Minister Gerald Zackios and Taiwanese Ambassador Lien-gene Chen signed the agreement for the funding here in Majuro.

Chen said the new loan program would be run by the Marshall Islands Development Bank "to help the outer islands to develop their private sector aimed to elevate the living standards and economic progress."

During the agreement signing ceremony for the signing of micro loan funding, Chen said the micro loan deal is another "first" for the Marshall Islands. In addition to the Marshall Islands, Taiwan has diplomatic ties with five other Pacific nations — Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru and Palau.

But Chen said the Marshall Islands is the first country in the Pacific that has diplomatic ties to Taiwan to have a national trust fund, volunteers and micro credit funding — all provided by Taiwan. Taiwan last year agreed to long-term funding of a trust fund for the Marshall Islands, and dispatched its first volunteers to work in the country.

There is currently no micro loan program in the country. Loans to individuals from the various banks on island come with an interest rate ranging from 13 to 18 percent, putting loans beyond the ability of small-scale entrepreneurs to repay.

A team from Taiwan’s International Cooperation and Development Fund is now in Majuro to complete a feasibility study on the needs and how the scheme can be put to work here. The team wraps up its work, including visits to two remote outer atolls, next week Friday.

January 6, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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