Diplomatic Corps speaks at FSM National Economic Symposium
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): February 14, 2011 - On February 8, the second day of the FSM National Economic Symposium taking place last week in Chuuk, Ambassador Zhang Weidong of the Chinese Embassy and Ambassador Peter Prahar of the U.S. Embassy presented their views to the 180 registered attendants regarding what they believe could assist in the economic revitalization of the FSM.
"There can be diverse modes of development in the humanity's road to modernization," said Ambassador Weidong. He explained that China's way of development towards the goal of becoming "a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized and harmonious modern country," has to take into account the fact that China is a developing country, a country in transition, and a socialist country.
"The Chinese way of development is one of the many modes in the world and I don't want to say that it is the best, but it is the most suitable way to China," said Weidong. He stated he knew that FSM has its own dream on how it sees its future, and stressed that "we must work hard for that dream, we must work united for that dream, and work step-by-step to realize that dream."
Next, Ambassador Prahar took to the podium. "We all know why we are here," said Ambassador Prahar, "the FSM's economic performance has continued to disappoint all of us. I think it is fair to say that all of us are very frustrated."
Ambassador Prahar suggested the National and State governments focus their efforts on considering impediments to growth that can be changed, as opposed to those over which we have little control and which are inherent to all Pacific Island economies, including: the relatively high costs of energy and transportation, small domestic markets, and frequent natural disasters.
"The impediments to growth that you can overcome are largely the result of human choice," said Prahar. He then went on to list six suggestions or areas in which changes would most likely spur private-sector led growth.
First, tax reform. "The FSM needs to reform its tax system to improve efficiency, transparency, and effectiveness and to encourage investment and increased business activity," said Prahar.
Second, land registration and titling reform. The Ambassador admitted he knew this was a sensitive area, "but I am also sure everyone realizes that no sensible investor, domestic or foreign, wants to put his money into improving someone else's property," said Prahar, "an investor needs security of title, lease, or easement."
His third suggestion emphasized the need to operate public utilities on a commercially sustainable basis; and the fourth called for the maintenance of public infrastructure: roads, sewers, water systems, ports, schools, government offices, and medical facilities.
Fifth, the Ambassador asked for the "liberalization and harmonization of foreign investment regulations coupled with an active search for legitimate investors." And his sixth and last suggestion for an impediment to economic growth that the FSM has in its power to remove was that of the lack of an adequate education system.
"I think every businessman would agree that a skilled workforce is a requirement for a business to be successful on a sustained basis," said Prahar. "Teachers and principals must accept responsibility for the purpose of these institutions: teaching the young people who will create the future. If they do not accept a commitment to this purpose or if they lack the skills to realize it, they do not belong. You need to move them out and make room for those who are committed and capable."
Throughout his speech, Ambassador Prahar even suggested a marketing slogan for the nation after the above-referenced reforms had been undertaken: "FSM: Open for Business."
Next Ieske Iehsi and Mark Heath of Micronesia Registration Advisers offered an outline of the work accomplished by MRA since its inception, including the recently licensed PermCore Insurance Company Ltd. - a global credit card brand originating from Japan.
Spensin James and Joe Habuchimai gave a summary of the major components of the College of Micronesia's Master Plan as far as what improvements they will implement in the areas of instruction, facilities and use of technology, long-term financial planning of college funds, as well as, improving the design and delivery of vocational programs.
The Center for Micronesian Empowerment (CME), represented by Gerson Jackson, Consul General of FSM in Guam; Michael Ghiglione, Executive Director of CME, and Jay Merrill, Secretary of the Board of Directors of CME, offered some inspiring statistics regarding the job training program they have created in Guam for Micronesians. "Eighty-nine percent of the 168 trainees have successfully passed the CME training program," said Ghiglione, "of these, 94% were successfully placed in full-time jobs in Guam."
The last presentation of the morning was given by Andrew Yatilman, Director of the Office of Environmental and Emergency Management. More details about this presentation will be forthcoming in connection with the final NES resolutions.
That same afternoon, and the following two days, the participants broke out into their assigned working groups to identify the constraints to FSM's economic growth in the areas of investment and trade, infrastructure, transportation, business regulations and logistics, and human resource development.
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