The four declared 2020 presidential candidates held their first public debate organized by Palau Community College this week, giving the public a comparative look at the four candidates’ economic policies.

With COVID-19 declared a pandemic and Palau already feeling the pinch of its economic impact, the economic policies of each candidate give the people a clearer look into what each candidate brings to the table.

Each of the candidate was asked a general question, “What can you do to improve and strengthen the economy?”

All the candidates spoke of diversifying the economic base, some with more outside the box ideas but all said they believed in diversification.

Candidate Alan Seid proposed more outside the box proposals such as growing cannabis (marijuana) to supply pharmaceutical companies outside of Palau.  He advocated exploring oil and gas, allow for off-shore corporations and leveraging Palau’s sovereignty to earn income.

Candidate SurangelWhipps Jr. proposed making Palau a financial center and turning education into a source of income such as improving and expanding PCC to attract students. He proposed improving our medical services to enable medical tourism such as attracting silver hair business to Palau because of improved medical services.  He recommends using all Palau’s resources land, ocean and underground to expand Palau’s economy.

Candidate RaynoldOilouch, current vice president, believes tourism will remain Palau’s main industry but he said that it should be expanded such as growing the cruise ship business.  He said that the government should help expand the tourism industry by helping to build infrastructures such as cultural centers and golf courses.  He supported oil exploration and expansion of the aquaculture industry.

Candidate Johnson Toribiong, former President of the Republic, was very specific in what he saw that could improve Palau’s economy.  He said to change Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary to allow Palauans to fish in the 80% that is currently no-take zone.  He said he was and still is the supporter of oil exploration and allowing each State to decide investments that they want to have in their States.  He seeks to explore opportunities in the cyberspace, such as internet gaming.  He added that having such an industry will encourage Palauan students to obtain an education in Information Technology.  He seeks to push Palau to become more investment-friendly.

Both Seid and Oilouch called for patience and strength to wait out the coronavirus crisis.  Whipps said that it is a wake-up call that tells us Palau needs to diversify its economy.

A common thread of the four candidate economic policies is that they are open and willing to drill for oil, amend marine sanctuary act, and open financial centers.  They differ in degrees but each seeks to look outside the box and expand on existing policies such as improving and expanding education and health into income generators. New ideas include legalizing marijuana and leveraging Palau’s sovereignty for profit.