Raising Palau’s minimum wage is a top priority of President Surangel Whipps Jr. for 2023.
“The biggest challenge people face today is the increase in the prices of goods, which is outside our control,” explained Whipps. “The biggest thing we can do as a government, as leaders, is helping those people and their households,” he added.
Inflation has affected the whole world. Palau experienced a 13% inflation rate this year. It had raised the cost of living while wages had remained at the 2013 level when the minimum wage was last increased.
Palau’s current minimum wage is $3.50 per hour. The government, in its FY 2023 national budget, increased the government minimum wage to $4.25, or a $6 per day increase. The increase applied to public sector employment only. The government allocated $3.5 million for FY 2023 to fund the salary increase.
“We raised it for the government, now we should expand it to everyone,” said Whipps of the minimum wage
The proposed Senate bill 11:9 seeks to raise the minimum wage from $3.50 to $6.50, increasing by .75 cents per hour every year until it reaches $6.50 per hour. The bill has been before congress since 2022.
Concluding the Compact of Free Association Review with the United States is another priority for Whipps. “It is important because it addresses our next 20 years and involves our operation,” said Whipps.
Tourism recovery for Palau is not as predicted, lagging behind at 10% of the 2019 numbers, whereas in some countries, such as Fiji is near 100% of their pre-covid numbers.
President Whipps hopes to secure more flight commitments from other traditional markets like Japan and Korea for 2023. Already China Airlines and Australia through Air Niugini have committed to fly to Palau.
He said he hopes to see Four Seasons Resort and the new resort in Malakal break ground in 2023.
Lastly, other priorities include the passage of pending bills on the Digitial Corporation and Aircraft Registry; potential new sources of revenue for the Republic.