By: L.N. Reklai

March 30, 2017 (Koror, Palau) The first bill to become law, RPPL 10-01, is the national budget of 2017 signed by into law on March 29, 2017 by President Remengesau Jr.

“Having a full year’s budget in place will greatly assist agencies in their planning efforts and ensure that important programs and services continue uninterrupted,” stated Remengesau before OEK leadership on Wednesday.

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President noted the new additions to budget which he applauded OEK for such as increasing in funding for Ministry of Justice.  The additional funds goes to fund the newly established Narcotics Enforcement Agency and to demolish the BRT.

“This is an important step in updating and modernizing our public facilities,” he added.

The budget also appropriated $400,000 to purchase a medical referral house in Manila, Philippines.  “Although renting space seems cheaper, in the long run it would be more costly and this investment is a wise investment for the Republic,” stated Remengesau on the increase to Ministry of Health.

Additionally, the budget also allocated $100,000 for a hyperbaric chamber at the Ministry of Health.

President Remengesau also remarked on the increased in Ministry of Education budget, such as increase for school supplies, increases to private school and to Palau Community College Endowment Fund. “Taken together, these appropriations reflect meaningful commitment to providing all of our young people with access to a high quality education.”

Noting anticipated reduction in revenue for 2017 based on current tourism trends and constrains on construction industry, Remengesau urged fiscal restraint.

“We are mandated to do a budget based on needs and population and I would like to put more emphasis on the needs in the coming years,” said Remengesau.

He pointed to the projected drought within this year as well as need to strengthen disaster risks capacity and resiliency of vulnerable communities in light of climate change impact.

Remengesau line item-reduced budgets for the Senate by $100,000, House by $100,000 and reduced Koror State block grant also by $100,000.

“Koror State, with its expanded revenue base and as the beneficiary of major national and overseas development assistance (ODA) and rightly so, now has the financial capacity to meet its recurrent operations obligations.  For instance, unlike the national government, which has proposed reduced budget due to anticipated reduced revenue receipts for fiscal 2017, Koror State is actually proposing an increase in its operating budget by about 7%, from $15 million to $16 million,” stated the President in his transmittal letter.

Drawing attention to Civil Service Pension Plan continued funding short fall, Remengesau emphasized that expenditures be prioritized and reserves be increased in order to fund CSPP.

The original budget submitted was at $86.8 million and $87 million was signed into law, increased only by .6%. [/restrict]