President-elect Surangel Whipps Jr. has many on his list of things to do upon taking office but some are more pressing than others, such as the economic recovery plan, re-alignment of government ministries and obtaining of ADB loan to support government operations in the next two years.
At his first meeting with the press as President-elect, Surangel Whipps Jr. stressed efforts to get Palau on its feet economically by quickly getting tourism back. “We have plans to diversify the economy but those take longer time, tourism is quicker,” stated Whipps of the effort.
Proposing two-track system to jump start the economic recovery, President-elect Whipps is pushing for faster vaccination of the population and opening of a “sterile corridor” of travel between Palau and Taiwan.
He said that Palau needs to move faster, position itself to vaccinate the people as soon as it receives the vaccines. “It’s operation Warp Speed and we should show our seriousness by moving to implement vaccines as soon as possible. If necessary, we will declare a holiday so people will all get vaccinated.”
Pushing for the “sterile corridor” travel between Taiwan and Palau, Whipps said that his first letter to the government of Taiwan posed this request. The concept of the sterile corridor was to have Taiwan as a screening point, that all travel from Taiwan to Palau regardless of origin of the flight, must undergo screening and quarantine in Taiwan first. For Taiwanese travelers to Palau, Palau will be perceived as a Taiwan domestic destination, and no quarantine will be required. Taiwan has not been too keen on the proposal but Whipps said he will do everything he can to convince Taiwan and allay its concerns.
Another major item on Whipps first 100 days agenda is to secure the ADB loan needed to support government budget in the next two years. To achieve this, a tax reform bill needs to be enacted. President Remengesau last month submitted the VAT tax called Goods and Services Tax bill. Whipps said that the bill needs to be more comprehensive and that they have acquired assistance of PIFTAC and IMF to help develop a more comprehensive tax bill to be introduced on the first day in office.
Questions and guesses as to who may be on president-elect Whipps cabinet remain unanswered with Whipps saying that all cards are on the table. One of his top priorities is to “Re-align” government ministries and this he said is dependent on the final report and road map devised by his Transition Committees and subcommittees.
The purpose of the “re-alignment” he said is to have more accountable, more responsive and more efficient government.
Selection of his cabinet, he said, will take place after the “road map” is complete and he will select the “best fit” for the positions. This road map is expected to be submitted at the inauguration day, according to Transition Committee Secretariat Landisang Kotaro.