FSMIS (November 27, 2013): President Manny Mori and the Congress Special Committee to Wait on the President met in the afternoon of November 25th at the President's Conference Room.
Appointed by Speaker Dohsis Halbert, the Congressional Special Committee consisted of Senator Wesley W. Simina, committee chairman, Senator Joseph J. Urusemal, Senator Yosiwo P. George, and Senator Peter M. Christian, who did not attend the meeting.
The Committee reported that the FSM 18th Congress has begun its Third Special Session earlier this day and that Congress, through the committee, would like to engage with the President on selected agenda items that should be prioritized this session.
President Mori welcomed the Committee and conveyed his appreciation for Congress’ readiness to collaborate. He also stressed that the Executive Branch will prioritize session matters for the duration of the meeting to ensure mutual satisfaction and nation-wide benefit.
Both the President and the Committee highlighted some areas where actions are needed.
The President had submitted a supplemental budget request in the amount of $11,450,024 before the convening of the session. Congress appropriated the FY14 budget in September in the amount of $41,653,844 -- Public Law No. 18-15. The latest FY14 revenue forecast provided by the Department of Finance is at $61,098,221. This means nearly $19.5 million in domestic revenue has not been allocated. The supplemental budget request pending at Congress is to tap this unallocated amount to provide for operation funding of certain offices such as the Project Management Unit (PMU) as well as capital projects in the areas of tourism, agriculture and investment required to “grow the economy”.
President Mori also impressed upon the Committee the pressing need to pass the telecommunication reform bill, reasons for which had been discussed at length with Congress through various fora including committee hearings. Chairman Simina said Congress needs to review the bill “as cautiously as possible”.
Related to the telecommunication reform bill, A World Bank grant of $500,000 awaits Congressional action. The Committee revealed that Congress had some reservations stemming from the breakdown on how this grant is to be used. Ultimately, the World Bank grant is to be utilized in a study that will result in the formulation of a telecommunication regulatory framework to put in place measures and conditions toward achieving a competitive and protected telecommunication industry with high standard service capacity.
The Committee to Wait on the President also laid out a few requests from Congress. First of all, Congress wants to understand the current status of the 2023 Planning Committee. The committee was created by Executive Order No. 40 on March 3, 2012 primarily to make recommendations to State and National Leaders on a realistic action plan that will address looming budgetary shortfall for the State and National Governments and assess the post-2023 financial scenarios. The kick off meeting for the planning committee was held in Pohnpei on April 9, 2013. It will meet again next month in Saipan after the Micronesian Chief Executive Summit scheduled for December 4-6.
The Committee to Wait on the President also reported that Congress would like to be more aware on the status of sea and air transportation situations. At present, the entire sea transportation services connecting the outlying islands to the State centers depend solely on Ms. Caroline Voyager, which is an FSM transportation operation. Additionally, an Airline Task Force has been exploring ways to improve air service within the country. To date, the Task Force has not provided any report on its mandate.
President Mori and the Senators discussed the situation relating to the Project Management Unit, which oversees the Compact infrastructure projects. FY 2014 operation funding for the PMU Office under Compact grants had been with held by the Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO) for certain reasons. Moreover, Congress opted to fund only the first quarter of the FY2014 from domestic revenues, with instructions to close out the office. The President stressed that to prevent potential drastic repercussions from an abrupt dismantling of PMU, Congress needs to consider a full-year funding for the office while a careful decentralization plan is explored.
President Mori was joined by Vice President Alik Alik and Cabinet Members.
For more information, call the FSM Public Information Office at 320-2548 or email email@example.com.