President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. met with members of the Palau Economic Advisory Group on Aug. 22 at the satellite office in Meyuns, Koror. On Aug. 23, the EAG met with ministers and private sector representatives. During each of their meetings, they learned about the challenges Palau is facing today and hear their proposed solutions. Photo credit: Alpert Pictures

“We had a robust discussion with the Economic Advisory Group that is here. ..It is great to have economists on the island and to be able to share our challenges,” President Surangel Whipps jr. said of the ongoing meeting this week with the group.

The Palau Economic Advisory Group met with President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr in Koror on Aug. 22. They were joined by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Palau, Andrew McLean. From left, they are: Mr. Peter Watson; Minister Kaleb Udui; James K. Galbraith, PhD; President Whipps; McLean; Dr. Denise Eby Konan; and Dr. Naoyuki Yoshino. Photo credit: Alpert Pictures

The Palau Economic Advisory Group is also meeting with government ministers, and private sector representatives, including Palau Chamber of Commerce and Palau National Communications Corp. leadership as well as Olbiil era Kelulau (OEK).

The information from the Office of the President said that group is here to learn more about “Palau’s successes and challenges under the Compact of Free Association.”

“I look at Palau as a patient and we have all these doctors to help us,” said President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr., who attended Tuesday’s meeting. “Hopefully everyone here can share the information on how we’re doing so we can get an appropriate diagnosis.”

Discussions revolved around building Palau’s economy, and including Palau in programs that attract U.S. companies and U.S. investors. The objective is to build an economically resilient Palau that can better withstand external challenges, stated President, such as the ongoing global pandemic.

Ministries, such as Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism & Development, discussed the impact of continued out-migration of skilled and educated on their ability to carry out their mission.

The Economic Advisory Group was created under last Compact Review signed on September 2010 but was not funded until 2018 when the 2010 CRA was funded by the United States Congress.

The CRA reads, in part: “The purpose of the Palau Economic Advisory Group is to contribute to the long-term economic sustainability of Palau by recommending economic, financial, and management reforms.”

There are five members in the advisory group: two designated by Palau and two by the United States, and the fifth member is chosen by the U.S. government from at least three persons who are not residents of Palau submitted by the President of Palau.

The visiting team members, who met with President Whipps on Monday, said they are here in Palau to listen and learn. A second trip is expected later this year. The members include:

• James K. Galbraith, PhD holds the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and a professorship in Government at The University of Texas at Austin. He was executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress in the early 1980s, and before that, an economist for the House Banking Committee.

• Dr. Denise Eby Konan is Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM). As Dean, she provides leadership to twelve academic departments that deliver nearly a fifth of degrees offered on campus.

• Peter Watson is President & CEO of The Dwight Group, the D.C.- based investment bank. He previously was appointed by President G. W. Bush as Chairman, President & CEO of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), now the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

• Minister Kaleb Udui, Ministry of Finance for the Republic of Palau, has served as the Chief of the Division of Budget and Management, Financial Advisor to the Ministry and Manager for a UNDP project that covered Personnel, Tax, and Planning reforms. In the 2000’s, Minister Udui worked in Banking and also served as the President of the National Development Bank of Palau.

• Dr. Naoyuki Yoshino is Professor Emeritus at Keio University, Tokyo, Japan and until March 2020 was Dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI). He obtained his PhD from Johns Hopkins University (United States) in 1979. Dr. Yoshino has been a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a visiting professor at various universities including the University of New South Wales (Australia), Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (France), and University of Gothenburg (Sweden).

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