Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A turning point in the history of telecommunication services in the FSM, sunset clause deadline pushed back till May

FSMIS (April 1, 2014): Federated States of Micronesia President Manny Mori indicated on March 26 his preference for Congress to focus on concluding its work on the Telecommunication Liberalization Bill and repealing the sunset clause in the Revenue Administration Act (RAA) during its Third Special Session.

In the morning of March 31, about fourteen hours before the sunset clause deadline was to kick into effect nullifying the tax reform initiatives, Congress voted one in favor and three against changing the tax reform deadline through State Delegation vote, prompting some Members to quickly rally for a last attempt before Speaker Dohsis Halbert called for a lunch-break.

Coming back to session at around 2:30pm after having a lunch meeting with President Mori and Vice President Alik at the Congress Hearing Room, Congress went through a reconsideration process and eventually chose to extend the sunset clause deadline to May 31, 2014.

Regarding such decision, a Member expressed that the two-months extension is simply to allow additional time for  Members to put into final terms their stance on the long-dragged tax regime change initiatives before the May regular session.

The President signed Public Law 18-51, the amended sunset clause, the evening of March 31, less than 8 hours before the deadline.

As for the Telecom Bill (as commonly known), the four State Delegations at Congress voted unanimously in favor of the bill after an amendment was made on the floor. The amendment had to do with altering certain provisions regarding the appointment of members for the regulatory authority that will govern and make regulations for the telecommunication sector for the Nation. As initially set, the FSM President has the sole authority to appoint and remove members of the authority. The floor amendment in its final form changes the specific section such that Congress would have the "advise and consent" power over the President's nomination. In other words, as in the case with the appointment of Cabinet and some board memberships, the Congress will have to confirm the President's appointments for members of the authority.

All along, Congress took the review of the voluminous reform bill very slowly to carefully review the many components of the legislation that sought to bring changes to a highly technical sector that is critical to the socio-economic status of the Nation.    

President Mori welcomes the news on Congress' decision to open up the telecommunications sector with the passage of the liberalization bill. The bill has gone through rigorous review by different entities including the FSM Telecommunication Corporation and undergone oversight and public hearings by the Congressional Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication.

Given President Mori's strong backing of the bill, it is anticipated that he will sign it into law.

The opening up of the telecommunications market is seen as a necessary catalyst for the Nation to not only access needed Information Communication Technology support from the World Bank but also for the obvious need to attract probable telecommunications service providers in a competitive setting with the aim of improving user-based service access and costs.  


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