REMENGESAU SIGNS $57 MILLION PALAU BUDGET

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By Nazario Rodriguez Jr. and Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR Palau (Palau Horizon, Jan. 10) — President Remengesau finally signed on Wednesday a so-called compromise budget for fiscal year 2007 amounting to $57,657,417 following marathon sessions in both Houses of Congress.

The budget was a rider to Senate Bill 7-108, SD1, HD1, which is to clarify procurement procedures for small purchases after the president vetoed two bills earlier.

The newly-signed bill became RPPL 7-25.

In his transmittal letter to the Olbiil Era Kelulau [Palau legislature], Remengesau said that this new law would provide for new, more practical procedures for the government procurement of small purchases.

More importantly, he said that this includes a sound and responsible budget for Fiscal Year 2007.

"It is with a sense of profound relief that I sign this bill into law today. After a two-day government shutdown, the Executive and Legislative Branches have found common ground and enacted a budget for our nation," Remengesau said.

The president commended the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) for putting th einterest of the nation before politics and making tough decisions needed to pass this bill.

He said that with its signing, the government would now be funded for the rest of the fiscal year beginning from Oct. 1.

"To all who worked these past two days without the guarantee of payment, I applaud your dedication and I am happy to say that you will get paid for your work. You represent the best of our nation," the president said.

The president asked the OEK to join him in pledging to work together this New Year to pass legislation that would strengthen the nation and make a better life for the Palauan people.

Senate Floor Leader Alan Seid yesterday discussed in details some of the major and new items as well as several issues on policy decisions that divided the Executive and the Legislative branches and had delayed the whole process of deliberations.

Seid expressed his belief that the new budget is a balanced budget, a responsible budget and that the deficit could reached the zero level by next year, which he said can be achieved by collections.

Seid noted that the deficit has been reduced by about four million in 2006 and this aspect had been commended even by the International Monetary Fund.

The main item that Seid is elated was the additional $250,000 for the purpose of carrying out the mandate of the Compact Review Commission.

The amount he said is extremely important for the government in its renegotiation with the US.

"We cannot underestimate the value of being prepared, The US is a key partner and it is not any easy task to negotiate. This will have a huge impact for the local economy as well as our relationship with the US," Seid stressed.

Another new item is the $250,000 for classroom Fixtures, to be used to purchase supplies and equipment, chairs, tables for the public schools.

The Budget for the Bureau of Immigration is $294,000, which is up by $5,000.

There is also a new item amounting to $100,000 for matching funds, which shall be used to match funds that have been or will be granted from USDA grants, the acquisition for four new ambulances, construction for new female and juvenile facilities in Koror Jail and construction of a fish and wildlife facility and the expansion of the Division of Fire and Rescue.

The budget for new capitol complex electricity and maintenance is up by $100,000 for a total of $250,000.

Another new item is the $50,000 for the Protected Areas Network and the $20,000 for the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which Palau is recently admitted to as a new member.

One area that the lawmakers and even the president fully supported was the increase in the State Block Grants for Airai State, which now totaled $430,625, with a net increase of $100,000.

The budget for the office of Public Auditor is $375,000, upped by $50,000 and for the office of the Special Prosecutor is $275,00, also upped by $50,000.

The budget for Palau Visitors Authority was increased to $75,000 and is now totaled $925,000.

There was also increased by about 20 percent in the public service systems reclassification budget amounting to $620,440.

Budget for Pension Plan Contribution is $1,000,000, to provide additional sums to the pension plan fund. The amount to be appropriated is $400,00 for expenditure and obligation for 2007 for investment purposes.

Seid has commended Sen. Alfonso Diaz for his effort in putting a new item into the budget for the purpose of providing fund to purchase VHF equipment for the Bureau of Public Safety.

The total budget for the Executive Branch is $32,958,000; the Judicial Branch is $2,276,000, the Legislative Branch is $3,761,500 ($1,261,00 for the Senate, $1,820,500 for the HOD).

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