FSM Congress Speaker Testifies on Compact of Free Association before House Resources Committee Hearing
WASHINGTON, D.C. (FSM Embassy to the US): July 16, 2003 - Calling the Compact amendments a "solid, yet flawed" deal for the FSM, Senator Peter Christina, Speaker of the FSM Congress, today addressed a hearing held by the Committee on Resources of the US House of Representatives. Speaker Christian was called to testify in his capacity as Chief Negotiator of the FSM Joint Committee on Compact Economic Negotiations (JCN).
In an oral summary of his details written testimony, Speaker Christina stated that while in general the Compact amendments represent a positive accomplishment by both sides, there were a number of provisions proposed by the Administration that remain problematic in the view of the FSM. He stated that the FSM's concerns center on the following elements; adequacy of grants funding and the trust fund, the mechanism for inflation adjustment, and continuation of federal programs. He also expressed concern about various provisions of the proposed Compact Act developed by the Administration.
With regard to the adequacy of grant funding, the Speaker restated the FSM's concern over a shortfall of $7 million annually between the Administration's proposal and the minimum level of assistance identified in the course of a comprehensive analysis of the nation's economic prospect. He also touched upon longstanding FSM concerns regarding the structure of the trust fund and its ability to replace annual grants after twenty years.
In the area of Federal Programs, the Speaker voiced the FSM's concern over recent moves elsewhere in the US Congress to limit FAS eligibility and the impact such measures would have on the FSM economy and the effectiveness of the Compact. Specifically, the Speaker highlighted the problems that would be created by the proposed elimination of FEMA disaster assistance and a number of programs in health and education.
Finally, the Speaker expressed his displeasure over the process employed by the Administration negotiators in drafting Compact implementing language for the Congress without consulting the FSM or allowing the FSM the opportunity to comment until after transmittal to Congress. He continued by highlighting FSM objections to certain elements of this document that had not been subject to negotiation.
Also testify before the Committee were representatives from the Department of Interior, US Office of Compact Negotiations, General Accounting Office (GAO), and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. A number of other speakers addressed matters relating to Compact impact compensation.
The next hearing on the Compact is scheduled to be held by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on July 15. Sebastian Anefal, Secretary of Economic Affairs and Chairman of the Interim FSM Delegation to the JEMCO, is scheduled to present the FSM's testimony.
The Speaker led a delegation from the FSM including Secretary Anefal; John Ehsa, Secretary of Finance and Administration; Paul McIlrath, Secretary of Justice, and Lt. Governor Gerson Jackson, Chairman of the JCN. They joined the Washington-based staff and advisers led by Ambassador Jesse Marehalau in attending the hearing.
In addition to the two scheduled hearings, the FSM delegation will hold a number of meetings with key Congressional Members and staff.
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