REMENGESAU: PALAU FAR FROM ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE

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By Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, April 19) – Palau is still far from the "ultimate goal of achieving economic independence," President Remengesau said this in his State of the Republic Address last Tuesday.

He said in his address that Congress must put in place frameworks for economic growth develop the private sector and expand revenues and to transfer employment from the public sector to the private sector.

Remengesau delivered his address for the first time at the Capitol for almost more than hour in front of other Palau leaders, diplomatic corps and cabinet members among others.

Remengesau delivered his address at the Senate chamber with only four senators and nine delegates.

The president also stressed the need to improve the performance of the governmental sector to attain the independence.

"To accomplish both of these goals, we must quickly revise our revenue generation capacities while we simultaneously put into place an appropriate and modern regulatory structure. And finally, we must ensure that our efforts to improve our economic livelihoods do not endanger our environment," Remengesau said.

He said for the private sector development, the tourism sector should be expanded focusing on high-end tourists.

The president said in order to enhance the governmental sector privatization of some government areas is encouraged.

To do this, the president said legislative action is needed.

Among the areas which need to be privatized are the maintenance and janitorial works, food and security services, public facilities such as sport centers and cultural centers, water and sewer services, airport and seaport.

The president said it also should be considered transferring the hospital into an autonomous administrative institution.

The president also called on the improvement and modernization of the regulatory environment and passes all of the necessary laws to improve the banking system in Palau.

He said in his address that there is also a need to put in place a modern tax structure that enhances a stronger revenue base.

"It is very clear revenues are not growing fast enough to cover current and anticipated needs. In addition to the need to balance our budget, we must find additional revenues to finance our grossly under-funded social security fund," Remengesau said.

The president said that revenue should be tapped to fund health care insurance, maintenance and operational costs of the capitol, maintenance of the new Compact Road, port expansion, water and sewer expansion, construction of the Cross Island roads, payment of existing adjudicated claims and financing for the Protected Area Network.

The president also urged the lawmakers to pass a transparent foreign investment law instead of complaining about front businesses and the Foreign Investment Board work when the law is inadequate to enforce the law.

"Our journey can be completed through hard work and a united effort. Please do not let me appear before you next April to report that we have not accomplished our goals. Time is running out. Local politics is only an excuse for failure. We must not accept failure on any front. We must never accept failure when the issue is our nation’s future," Remengesau said.

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