Delays In Implementing Palau’s Senior Discount Act Queried

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Law, passed 2 years ago, yet to put into practice

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Sept. 16, 2014) – Palau Senator Mlib Tmetuchl has written Senate President Camsek Chin expressing his concern regarding the delay in implementing the Senior Citizens Discount Act.

"I wish to follow on a letter dated July 4, 2014 sent to you by several senators regarding the implementation or the failure to implement RPPL No. 8-49, the Senior Citizens Discount Act," reads the first part of Tmetuchl’s letter to Chin. The letter was dated September 11, 2014.

Last July, five lawmakers-Senators Joel Toribiong, Mark Rudimch, Kathy Kesolei, Regis Akitaya, and Tmetuchl- wrote to the Senate President saying they believe that since applicable regulations have been promulgated, senior citizens should now be receiving these benefits per the law.

Tmetuchl said the delay is alarming.

"As you are aware, a significant amount of time has passed since RPPL 8-49 was enacted into law on September 9, 2012. Regardless of the myriad of explanations for the delay in its implementation, it is alarming that the Executive Branch can continue to be selective in the implementation or enforcement of laws of the Republic. In the absence of legislation to repeal, amend or delay its implementation, the law must be upheld and senior citizens should be availed of this discount," the letter further reads.

The Senator then asked the Senate President to take action on the matter.

"We cannot continue to be selective on which laws the Republic we may choose to implement, enforce or totally disregard in this instance. It is incumbent upon the Senate to clarify pending issues that may prevent our citizens from receiving benefits due them under the law. I therefore ask for your appropriate action as Senate President to facilitate its implementation for the benefit of our senior citizens," Tmetuchl said.

Public Law 8-49 was signed into law in 2012 by former President Johnson Toribiong. Its purpose is to provide senior citizens discounts on goods and services. It designates senior citizens as those over the age of 60, all of whom must be registered with the Bureau of Aging and Gender to become eligible for the discounts. Upon registration, senior citizens are to receive an identification card to be used in purchases.

The Bureau of Aging and Gender was tasked with developing and utilizing a registration form.

According to the regulation, the senior citizen may receive a 10% discount in retail stores for purchases more than $5 and a 25% discount in hotels and restaurants for purchase more than $5. Only the senior citizen's meal is eligible for the discount, and purchases of tobacco and alcohol are not eligible.

The law states that any person or company violating the law will be imprisoned for a period of not more than one year and fined not more than $1,000.

Companies that give out discounts to senior citizens must record the discount given on cash register receipts to use for tax deduction claims for the same taxable year that the discount is granted.

In June of this year, the national government delayed the development of the regulations to implement the Senior Citizen’s Discount Act after numerous questions and concerns came to light.

The Palau Chamber of Commerce said that the implementation of the Act will be challenging and leaves too much room for fraud.

For its part, Association of Palau Businesses said that they agree that the law has a great deal of potential abuse.

Commenting on Tmetuchl’s letter, a national government official said the matter is still being discussed with all concerned.

"The national government is discussing the matter with senior citizens, Chamber of Commerce and others to address concerns and to come up with a solution that will be acceptable to all," he said.

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