In a public address yesterday, outgoing President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. urged the incoming government to continue to support a range of initiatives begun during his administration, including the current government pension plan, education opportunities, and the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS).
President Remengesau’s eight-year presidency is scheduled to end on January 21, 2021, when President-elect Surangel Whipps Jr. is sworn into office. The President-elect’s emphasis on economic and legal reform throughout his campaign as well as the new government appointments he’s expected to make could mean a substantial shift in many of the outgoing President’s policies.
Remengesau’s address, delivered at the Employee Appreciation Day celebration at Koror-Babeldaob Bridge, called on the leaders of Palau to do “good work . . . for the people of Palau”.
“Leaders change, but priorities and responsibilities don’t change,” said President Remengesau.
Remengesau defended the current pension plan, which he said many elderly citizens rely on. He called the Social Security and Healthcare Funds “a good source of income and source of living” for Palauans. Both are funded through mandatory contributions from earned income from both employees and employers.
The Palau Civil Service Pension Plan, which now has a monthly minimum pension of around $200, has been losing money in the past years due to a greater amount of benefits paid out than collected from income deductions, prompting the National Government to request a $10 million loan from Taiwan’s ICDB Bank earlier this year to support the plan. The President stressed that the government should continue to support and improve the system, in part by extending the pension plan, which is currently only for people in the public sector, to people in the private sector as well.
President Remengesau further stressed the need for the government to pursue scholarship programs offered by foreign countries, emphasizing the importance that young Palauans seek out higher education in places which can provide it.
“There are 92 members of the UN, and those big and rich countries offer scholarships to countries like ours,” he said, citing Taiwan, Australia, Russia, Cuba, and Europe as places which have offered scholarships to Palauan citizens. “We need to continue to take advantage of all educational opportunities for the population of Palau.”
President Remengesau also reiterated his hope that the incoming administration will continue to support the PNMS, the 475,077-square-kilometer no-take zone which has become a worldwide symbol of Palau’s conservation efforts since it was put into effect at the beginning of this year.
“The PNMS is working,” said the President, explaining that there was an increasing amount of fish in the waters around the Southwest Islands during his visit last week.
The PNMS has drawn some criticism, particularly in the time preceding elections, for not yet succeeding in its goal of generating a sustainable domestic fish market.
President Remengesau, however, argued that the initiative has already increased the amount of fish in the ocean by decreasing “illegal fishing”, and that the next step for Palau is to develop domestic fisheries.
“Let’s get the most value out of the fish,” Remengesau said, claiming that the benefit of exporting fish far outweighs the value of export taxes from international fishers. “It’s all about being the resource owners.”
President-elect Surangel Whipps Jr. has previously said that the PNMS is an initiative he supports and he believes Palauans can benefit from. However, he said that the laws and policies surrounding it “need to be reviewed and updated” to give Palauan fishermen more opportunities.
Mr. Whipps has also been a proponent of tax and economic reform, and has said that young Palauans need to be educated in “life skills” such as farming, and not just higher education.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.