Thursday, October 2, 2014

Program Management Unit's FY14 operation funding extended

FSMIS (October 2, 2014): On September 30, 2014, the Federated States of Micronesia Vice President Alik L. Alik signed into law Congressional Act number 18-100, to become public law 18-90.

The new law allows for the extension of the lapse date for funding made available for the operation of the Program Management Unit (PMU) for fiscal year 2014. 

The lapse date for this particular operation funding is September 30th. The law allows the use of this funds to extend beyond September 30th, until the money is expended, or the terms for the availability of the grant that provides for the operation funding is met. 

PMU's operation grants are part of funds managed by the Office of Insular Affairs, United States Department of the Interior.

PMU oversees the implementation of infrastructure development projects throughout the FSM. 

FSM's diplomatic relations listing

FSMIS (October 2, 2014): The latest country that the FSM has established diplomatic relations with is the Cook Islands, as reported a few days ago from FSM Permanent Mission at the United Nations. 

This formalization of foreign relations with other countries brings to reality an important statement in the FSM Constitutional Preamble:

"We extend to all Nations what we seek from each: peace, friendship, cooperation and love in our common humanity." 

The link below shows a table that indicates all the countries the FSM has established diplomatic relations with and the year that such relation officially began.

FSM Congress confirms nomination of Mr. Waguk and Mr. Arnold

FSMIS (October 2, 2014): In smooth sailing fashion, the eighteenth day meeting of the Federated States of Micronesia Eighteenth Congress ushered in the confirmation of the nominations for Mr. Tulensru E. Waguk from Kosrae and Mr. Roger Arnold from Chuuk earlier this morning.

Mr. Waguk was nominated to represent the State of Kosrae in the College of Micronesia-FSM board of regents. 

Mr. Arnold was named for the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA), representing the State of Chuuk. 

Also in today's meeting, Congress ratified the amendment to the Third Implementing Arrangement in implementing the Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA), opening up fishing activities in the Eastern High Seas to fishing operators sanctioned by PNA. (It had been incorrectly reported that this particular resolution was adopted on October 1st). Floor Leader Singkoro Harper introduced the resolution on September 11, 2013 by request of the President. In fact, this resolution resulted from a Ministers' meeting by PNA members, which took place in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in July 2013. The opening of this particular High Seas would have had become effective by January 2014. 

Congress also agreed on a resolution asking the Speaker to call a special session on November 17th, subject to the polling of Members. 

The meeting today was observed by a four-member delegation from the Municipality of Kitti, which included a 3-year old boy. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Congress urges the President to halt implementation of the Unified Revenue Administration Act of 2010, recommits constitutional proposal to J&GO

FSMIS (October 1, 2014): In today’s meeting, Congress spent time debating over the report from the Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations (J&GO) recommending the passage of the proposal to lower the threshold requirement of 75 percent to only 66 percent in three of the four States, in order for an amendment to the FSM Constitution to be accepted. After much debate, the proposal got sent back to the J&GO committee. It is not clear what the committee will do with the proposal in the immediate term.

Congress also acted on eight resolutions. Among them was a resolution urging the President to hold up on the implementation of the Unified Revenue Act of 2010. The Executive Branch informed Congressed two days ago that it would start transitioning the administration o tax from the Customs and Tax Administration (CTA) to the URA on October 1, 2014.

During today’s meeting, Congress expressed concern regarding the URA implementation on October 1st based on the advice of their legal counsel, claiming constitutional issues exist as they see a lack of uniformity in the implementation of National tax. The Department of Justice had determined that the implementation of the URA Act does not bring about a violation of the FSM Constitution, and reiterated that position during the meeting with Congress on September 30th.

On a more positive note, Congress agreed to ratify an amendment to the Third Arrangement in implementing the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), regarding the removal of the closure of the Eastern High Seas to fishing activities.

PNA is an agreement among nine Pacific countires concerning cooperation in the management of fisheries within their combined Excusive Economic Zones.

Congress deferred action on the nominatioin for Mr. Tulensru E. Waguk to serve as a member of the board of regents of the College of Micronesia-FSM, representing the State of Kosrae.  A minimum of ten votes was needed to pass the nomination. Only nine Members were present.

The session will continue tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. for the eighteenth day.

A regular session takes twenty days unless shortened or extended by resolution.  

FSM National Government Fiscal year 2015 budget of $54.5 million signed into law

FSMIS (September 30, 2014): After the Federated States of Micronesia Eighteenth Congress passed the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget for the FSM National Government on September 23, 2014, the Executive Branch undertook the necessary review over a six-day period to advise the President correctly before making decision on the Budget Act. Vice President Alik L. Alik, on behalf of President Manny Mori who is in New York for the purpose of the United Nations General Assembly, signed Congressional Act No. 18-92 into law on September 29th, two days before the new fiscal year kicks in.

The Budget Act appropriates the amount of $54,548,704 from the FSM general fund for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, in order to provide funding for the operations of the branches, agencies and various programs of the FSM National Government, including funding for grants, subsidies, contributions as well as some substantial amount for “capital and human resources development”.
It is pointed out that the Act contains computation errors for funds allocated to budget items for Capital and Human Resource Development, section 9 of the Act. Given this, the correct amount of appropriated funds is $54,548,704 instead of $55,090,704 as reflected in the Act. Congress will need to rectify the discrepancies at the earliest possible.

In the signing message, President Mori expressed his appreciation and noted that Congress concurred to the FY15 revenue projection of $66.9 million submitted on April 1st. However, based on current revenue collections achieved, the President asserts that FY15 revenue level will be much higher than initially projected. For instance, the FY15 revenue projection includes $36 million from fishing license fees. Yet, the current collection from that specific revenue source is $46.9 million.

Government Operation Expenditure Side

On the operation side of the budget, the total amount for the three Branches of Government is $22,592,776.  This includes $17,431,735 for the Executive Branch, $3,849,605 for the Legislative Branch and $1,311,436 for the Judicial Branch.

At the submission of the budget in April 2014, President Mori indicated to Congress his administration’s aim of containing operation costs increase in FY15 to below 0.2 percent, which is lower that the FY14 increase of 3.2 percent. Some increases are due to occur based on upward adjustment in per diem rate pursuant to a new policy for official travels within the FSM and to Guam. 

Investment Side

The annual budget also contains an “investment” portion. This section includes funding that are earmarked for infusion into trust funds, educational grants (such as scholarship), funding for the FSM Association of Chamber of Commerce, etc., or for the support of other capital improvement projects that have the capacity to aid economic growth and development.

In the signing message, the President indicates:

“I also thank Congress for appropriating $10 million into the FSM Trust Fund. While I welcome the $10 million infusion into the Trust Fund which is in line with the intents and purposes of our Draft 2023 Action Plan, I would ask that Congress urgently consider Congressional Bill 18-206 for the creation of the 2023 Investment Development Fund (IDF), a critical key financing component of a package of reforms under the 2023 Action Plan.”

The President has requested Congress to appropriate $10 to $15 million every year into the “2023 Investment Development Fund” to help boost economic growth through private sector investment. Congressional Bill 18-206, pending with Congress, defines the parameters and operational frameworks for the Fund. Congress has yet to pass the IDF legal framework and put money to support the IDF arrangement.

In section 8 of the Act, a total of $9,234,336 is appropriated for grants, subsidies and contributions under the Departments and Offices, including membership fees in global and regional bodies, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, South Pacific Tourism Organization, etc.
For this year, Congress extends funding to Kosrae circumferential road, $300,000; Yap International Airport terminal, $300,000; “Weno Road/Xavier Road”, $150,000; and the Chuuk International Airport Terminal, $150,000 in addition to providing new funding for Climate Change Conference participation for Members of Congress, $30,000; FSM/Israel Congressional Relations, $100,000; and Compact of Free Association Historical Project for $150,000.

After the FY15 budget appropriation has been made and got approved on September 29th, at present, an amount of $14.6 million remains to be earmarked for specific use.

The entire FY15 budget appropriation law can be read in the link below.

Message provided through the UN Joint Presence Office in the FSM

Dr. Babatunte Osotimehin
Executive Director’s Statement
on the Occasion of the International Day of Older Persons

1 October 2014

On this 24th International Day of Older Persons, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, joins the worldwide celebration of longevity and acknowledges the contributions that older persons make to their families, communities and societies. We celebrate the fact that more people are living longer and healthier lives. This is due to improvements in nutrition, sanitation, medical science, health care, education and economic well-being.

Population ageing is a triumph of development. Supporting the full participation of older persons brings tremendous benefits to all generations. The opportunities for further social and economic gains are as endless as the contributions that an active, secure and healthy ageing population can make to society.

The theme of this year’s special day reflects the United Nations Secretary-General’s guiding principle: Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All. With close to 12 per cent of the world’s population aged 60 or over, leaving older persons behind is not an option.

The needs and rights of older persons, and issues of population ageing, must be included in the post-2015 development agenda. By 2030, there will be more people over the age of 60 than children under 10. By 2050, the global ageing population will be 2 billion strong.

Leaving no one behind means tackling inequalities and guaranteeing universal access to social services and social protection. Ensuring equal access to all segments of the population, both young and old, to education, income, health care and basic social services enables people to live decently in the present and to save for the future.

UNFPA is committed to working with United Nations Member States, the United Nations system and civil society to make sure that older persons are not left behind and can enjoy health, lifelong learning and well-being throughout their lives. We are working to include ageing issues in the post-2015 development agenda, in national development frameworks and poverty reduction strategies, and to ensure that the voices of older persons are heard.

Congress mulls special session after current session, new public project $2.8 million

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (September 30, 2014): During yesterday's meeting, as the Fifth Regular Session of the Eighteenth Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia is winding down, Senator Wesley Simina asked his colleagues to agree on coming back for a special session in mid-November.
Senator Joseph J. Urusemal was thinking of the same thing. But, he wanted the meeting to take place from December 1st to 10th, instead of November.
Members tried to rationalize for both timeframes. Senator Simina explained that he wanted the November option for Congress to be able to respond in time to possible adverse actions by the Executive Branch on measures recently passed by Congress. 
Among other items they acted on, Congress had passed on September 26th a new public project appropriation of $2.8 million, equally divided among the 14 Members.  
Senator Urusemal revealed that the Standing Committee on Education and the Committee on Health and Social Affairs had planed to jointly undertake public hearing throughout the FSM States during the month of November.
Floor Leader Singkoro Harper agreed to having a special session soon but would prefer leaving the date to the Speaker determine based on "necessary actions".
Senator Vicky Gouland preferred knowing specific timeframes. He said his is busy with his campaign schedules for the 2015 election.
The date will be finalized before the session adjourns on October 4th.