(Editor’s Note: A look back on what has happened in the last month of 2020 will be featured in a separate article in the next issue.)
By the end of this month, there are 40 million cases of coronavirus worldwide. In the United States, President Trump tested positive for Covid-19.
In Palau, Australia, Japan and the United States announced a Trilateral Partnership for Infrastructure Investment to fund the construction of a second undersea fiber optic cable .
Palau received another high-level visit from the US military , this time, it was the Secretary of the US Navy Kenneth Braithwaite.
During that meeting Palau’s president has reiterated his call for the United States military to establish a permanent presence here.
Palau’s president Tommy Remengesau has threatened to leave the Pacific Islands Forum if the secretary general’s post does not go to Micronesia.
Speaking at a special Micronesian leaders meeting in Koror, Remengesau, pressed on honoring a “gentleman’s agreement” between Pacific Islands Forum leaders that the next secretary general would come from their sub region.
“This is an important consideration for Palau to continue to participate and be productive in the PIF agenda as long as our promises are met.”
It was also reported that due to financial constraints, Palau UN Permanent Missions office in New York City officially closed its doors on September 1, 2020, Ambassador Olai Uludong, Palau’ Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Climate Change confirmed.
Palau and Taiwan also started talks about a Taiwan bubble but it was soon postponed so the two countries can ensure minimal risk of infection.
The Global Village which consists of all the facilities upgraded and improved to host Our Oceans 2020 Conference, an international conference initially scheduled for August of this year but was moved to 2021 has been completed.
Palau gained $19 million dollars-worth of infrastructure improvements as result of winning the bid to host Our Oceans 2020.
The improvements include renovations of the old OEK, renovations PCC classrooms and cafeteria, Ernguul Park, Palau National Gym, Asahi Ballfields, vehicles and others including technical equipment and support.
Reporters in Palau also had a chance to put their questions to the nation’s two presidential candidates: VP Raynold Oilouch and Surangel Whipps Jr.
Koror State Government is seeking a $25M loan from Asian Development Bank (ADB) to help offset its expected budget shortfall in the next three (3) years.
After adopting a conservative budget of $12M in January in anticipation of potential impact of COVID-19, Koror State Government is seeing much greater decline in income than it had earlier predicted.
“At the end of September (3rd quarter), we collected only 45% of revenue that we expected to receive this year,” stated Koror Finance Director Kevin Chin. Of the $7.4M revenue they projected for this year, over $6M was to come from tourism revenue.
This means that Koror State will need about $5M from somewhere else to fund the revenue shortfall this year.
This month showed promises of COVID-19 vaccine with Moderna announcing its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, said it’s 94.5 percent effective, while Pfizer announced its coronavirus vaccine candidate would be submitted for FDA approval soon.
Businessman and former senator Surangel Whipps Jr. defeated Vice President Raynold Oilouch in the Nov. 3 presidential election in Palau.
While absentee ballots are still waiting to be counted, Vice President Raynold Oilouch conceded to President -elect Whipps Jr.,
A new vice president has also been elected, Sen. Uduch Sengebau Senior was the second woman elected as VP in Palau.
Palauan citizens also elected new members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the newly-completed National Landfill in Aimeliik which will be opened this coming January,
The Governor of Airai State, Governor Tmewang Rengulbai is in an intensive care unit at the Belau National Hospital after sustaining injuries from a car accident on November 15th, 2020.
According to a report from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Governor Tmewang was a single driver in the accident that occurred in the early morning hours in front of Palau High School.
President-elect Surangel Whipps, Jr. announced the organization of his Transition Team on November 12, 2020.
According to the press release issued by his transition team, President-elect Whipps Jr. appointed Mr. Kione Isechal and Minister Charles Obichang from the current Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries, & Commerce as Co-Chairs to lead the transition.
With nearly two months remaining in his term, President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. submitted a tax reform bill, the Palau Goods and Services Tax (PGST), a value-added tax system, to Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) and not for the first time.
In his transmittal letters to both Senate President Hokkons Baules and House Speaker Sabino Anastacio, he said that the “pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of our economy, and revealed key areas for improvement…This is the time to improve our business climate by establishing corporate registry, by developing a system for international commercial arbitration, by improving the resiliency of core sectors and by reforming our tax code.”
The Ministry of Health has said that Palau could be receiving a vaccine for COVID-19 early next year, maybe as early as January 2021.
The MOH says that it aims to have 80% of the population of Palau vaccinated by May 2021.
Meanwhile in the US, Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States. (B. Carreon)