FSM Congress News, November 6, 2003
PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Congress): November 6, 2003 - Congress approved funding for the second quarter of fiscal year 2004 for the operation of the national government, federal agencies, programs and other activities, before adjourning sine-die Sunday, November 2.
Before the approval of the second quarter budget for the FSM and after lengthy discussions on the bill, Chairman Resio Moses of the Health, Education and Social Affairs Committee, urged Members of Congress to please honor President Urusemal's request to Congress and the Department of Finance and Administration to work together and find sources of funds to accommodate the financial needs of the College of Micronesia-FSM.
The COM-FSM requested an operations budget of $4.0 million for FY 2004, an increase of $780,000 over the $3+ million appropriated for the operation of the College in FY 2003. The basis for the increase included the creation of a new campus in Chuuk, new programs being developed at the request of Congress, accreditation for the College this year, and the rapid increase in student enrollment, according to Senator Moses' statement.
Other controversial and approved bills pertained to the national election commissioners, who some Members said should be made subject to review and consent by the Congress, the moratorium on alien labor and the transferring of funds originally designated as capital project funds under the expired provisions of the Compact of Free Association to the current accounts of the national and state governments for unrestricted use.
As for the moratorium bill, Members agreed to grant the relevant departments and offices additional time to collect important information about the status of alien labor in the FSM and about the continued need for specific categories of alien workers. The latter bill, if approved by the president, would extend the moratorium from December 31, 2003, to May 31, 2004.
Other bills that passed on the 2nd and Final Reading pertained to changing of allottees, modifying the use of funds and reallocating of certain funds previously appropriated by Congress.
The resolution to authorize the FSM Telecommunication Corporation to incur debt and to agree to liens or security interests in the assets of the corporation was also controversial. The resolution, now approved, allows the corporation to finance the installation of a fiber optic cable from Guam to its central office in Pohnpei. The project will be financed through a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
The project will be done by Tyco Telecommunication and was initially intended to connect, through the use of submarine cables, Australia, Guam, Japan and the U.S. Seeing the opportunity to pay less and gain more in the project that is very close to its shores, the FSM Telecommunication Corporation as well as the Marshall Islands decided to join the project. The project will cost the FSM $17.4 million, the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll, Reagan Test Site $27.7 million and the Marshall Islands National Telecommunication Authority $22.2 million, for a total of $67.3 million.
Members of Congress took considerable time to consider and discuss the resolution. They questioned the status and merit of the Tyco Telecommunication and wondered if Tyco would be like some other companies who, once they got what they were looking for from the FSM, turned and just walked away.
The Committee on Transportation and Communication, which has jurisdiction on the matter, argued that the project could, in the long run, help the FSM and its citizens. It will not only decrease telephone costs and Internet accessibility over time, but it will also increase the clarity of conversations within and outside of the FSM. The proposed system will also help education and medical care facilities. It will also help the business sectors and provide employment opportunities, according to Committee Chairman Moses Nelson.
The other resolutions approved by Congress included one to congratulate Pope John Paul II, the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church and the Head of the Holy See on his 25th anniversary as pontiff for the Roman Catholic Church. The Holy See has a designated ambassador to the FSM.
The pope was praised in discussions on the resolution for actively campaigning for world peace, especially in view of his health and age.
Other approved resolutions included fishing agreements and a resolution to shorten the 2nd Regular Session of the 13th Congress to 21 days instead of 30 days.
The meeting of the Economic Policy Implementation Council (EPIC), heavy rain and power outages interrupted Congress in its 17th, 18th, and 19th day, so bills and resolutions were finally approved in its 20th and 21st day of the session, with Congress working into the nights and on weekends.
For further information on this release, please contact:
Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia Public Information Office P.O Box PS-3 Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941 Tel.: (691) 320-2324/2325 Fax.: (691) 320-5122 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.fsmcongress.fm