Wednesday, May 14, 2014

President Mori asks Congress to carefully examine the proposed "2023 Investment Fund", other priorities highlighted to "Committee to Wait"

FSMIS (May 14, 2014): Two days after the opening of the Fourth Regular Session of the 18th Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Congressional Special Committee (Committee to Wait of the President) met with President Manny Mori this morning at the President's Conference Room.

The Committee consisted of Senator Joseph J. Urusemal, Senator Yosiwo P. George and Senator David W. Panuelo, who said he was a last minute appointment. Senator Panuelo, who chaired the Committee, took the place of Senator Peter M. Christian. Senator Wesley W. Simina, also appointed to the Committee, did not attend the meeting.

President Mori welcomed the Committee and assured the Members that the Executive Branch is ready to work with Congress to achieve a productive session. He asked that Congress expedite action on the FY15 recommended budget during this session and not delay budget review portions to the September session, as previously happened for FY13 and FY14 budget review processes.

President Mori specifically asked that Congress evaluate carefully the proposed 2023 Investment Fund as included in the FY15 budget request submitted last month. The President is proposing a $15 million set aside into the fund out of local revenue to assist with economic development projects that must undergo "due diligence" process. He informed the Committee that a framework for the mechanics of the investment fund, which is tasked to the Office of  SBOC and the Chief of Staff, will be provided to Congress once completed. The President said that about $10 million to $15 million should be invested in the fund every year leading to 2023 to demonstrate seriousness in facilitated economic growth and build investors' confidence in investing in the FSM economy.

The President also pointed to the requested $5 million, also from local revenue, to go toward the FSM Trust Fund.

President Mori also indicated that inclusive in the FY15 budget request is a $1.4 million Congressional public project allocation. The President feels that the inclusion of such allocation in the budget request will give Members time to involve stakeholders and conduct more careful planning for specific economic and social development projects, as compared to previous practices.

Among other items discussed, President Mori also asked Congress to consider his request to give a State of the Nation Address to Congress, and the Nation, preferably on May 27. He also informed the Committee that the State and National Leadership Conference has been scheduled for May 22nd and 23rd, for which he looks forward to Congress' vital participation.

Chairman Panuelo thanked the President and Vice President for the opportunity to discuss priorities for the ensuing session. Together, the Senators sought clarifications on a number of issues including World Bank grants for FSM, updates on the status of the newly endorsed Overseas Development Assistance Policy, and whether or not Congress should expect a revised budget request as a result of the "zeroing out" of National Government's share of Compact Sector grants, which happened after the FY15 budget had been transmitted to Congress.

The Committee also brought to attention a concern raised by certain Members involving the slow processing of public project funds that, they alleged, have caused project delays and changes.

The Senators also expressed concern that required reporting by funds allotees has not been upheld.

The President instructed the Secretary of Finance to look into the matter and provide fund status and expenditure reports to allotees to be in compliance with required reporting to Congress.

Finally, the Leaders took some time to discuss the current passport printing hold-up situation. The Secretary of Justice reported that the Department will receive passport booklet supplies by tomorrow and that around seven thousand booklets will be available by next week. She said the office is  positioned to work on the back-log of passport requests the next five days and maintain  operation thereafter.  

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