State of the Nation Address by
H. E. Leo A. Falcam
Federated States of Micronesia
Congress of the
Federated States of Micronesia
Palikir, November 4, 2002
Check Against Delivery
When I took office almost four years ago, I outlined three key priorities for the work of my Administration and our nation: Number one, building our economy with a true determination to work together; Number two, the recognition and protection of our cultural values; and Number three, a strong commitment to effective international relations.
These were to be undertaken in the context of a broader promise to establish an Administration which gains and holds the confidence of the people, of the Congress, and of the State Governments - one which would work constructively and in close cooperation with all branches of government at every level within the FSM. Please allow me to briefly outline our progress in these areas.
I would also call the attention of Members to my written submission which describes in detail some of the specific steps my Administration has taken in these regards. This statement also outlines areas in which continued support from the distinguished Members of Congress is required if we are to further our progress in the coming years.
Before I proceed, please allow me to reiterate the heartfelt condolences of my Administration to the victims and their families of the recent natural disasters. We pledge to do everything in our power to assist in the rehabilitation of these devastated communities.
I would like also to express appreciation to the representatives of the United States Armed Forces, who have honored a recently deceased Pohnpeian who was serving in the military, by returning and accompanying his remains home.
The central theme of my inauguration address was, "Into the New Millennium, Working Together." I'm pleased to report that this spirit continues to guide the work of our nation, and that today we stand united together with a common purpose. As a result, Mr. Speaker, the state of the union is stronger than ever.
One indicator of our strong unity is that our economy has seen sustained economic growth for a longer period than ever before. While my Administration will not be satisfied until we achieve an even higher level of growth, the continued strength of the FSM economy is remarkable given a regional economic crisis and the recent global economic downturn. More seeds are being sown every day for the development of a vibrant private sector, and we are poised for a flourishing of business activity.
Most importantly, this growth and other economic measures have translated to a rising standard of living for our citizens. Economic growth is an empty promise if its benefits do not reach the people. Improving the standard of living of each and every citizen of this nation has been, and will remain, the underlying goal of every act of this Administration.
The widely dispersed nature of our population and the inherent communications and transportation difficulties with outlying areas often results in growth being concentrated in the major population centers. However, through a concerted effort of my Administration, we are working hard to make sure that no area of the FSM, and no citizen, is left behind in our advancement as a nation.
Specific economic accomplishments during my administration include the historic 1999 FSM Economic Summit, creation of the Economic Policy Implementation Council (EPIC), and the three-year Economic Policy Framework.
While much more remains to be done, we have made progress in providing improved educational and health care systems, two of the greatest challenges we have faced, and will continue to face in years to come.
An educated population underpins our economic growth and social development. If we do not improve education and develop the knowledge and skills of our citizens, it will be difficult for the nation to meet its goals for economic growth. Much the same is true in the area of health care. While the general health status of our population has improved steadily over the years, we still face a number of challenges. New threats, such as HIV, join established health concerns such as so-called "lifestyle diseases" and substance abuse as major causes of death and debilitation for our nation. A healthy population is required for our economic progress.
Further, we must be careful to ensure that our continued economic progress does not come at the expense of our fragile natural environment. Through measures aimed at this goal we also set an example for the rest of the world to follow. By recognizing our obligation to humankind, regardless of boundaries, to preserve our natural heritage, we hope others will follow our lead and address areas which impact us adversely, such as climate change.
Politically, our Federation grows stronger daily. I am pleased to report that the past four years has demonstrated that our common interests bind us far more than our differences draw us apart. Representatives from all segments of our population are gathered before us today. It is a remarkable testament to the strength of our Federation that each of us retains our important individual cultural identities, yet we share something new - we are all citizens of the FSM, working together for our new nation.
Throughout the four years of my presidency, this Administration has placed highest priority on the development of and adherence to sound, responsible fiscal policies. Central of these activities is a commitment to the development of a more accountable, transparent, and results-oriented public service, by striving to make government more efficient, cost-effective, and professional.
During the course of my term, I have been the first FSM President to visit most of our outer island communities. I have been doing this for a very important reason, not just to enjoy their wonderful hospitality. I place a high priority on visiting our outer islands, both to remind those communities of their important place within our national union, and to emphasize the importance of Cultural Preservation and Maintenance of traditional knowledge, practices and language.
These goals and that of national unity are not mutually exclusive - both will be required to prosper in the world community, improve our present standard of living, and at the same time not lose those things we hold so dear - those things that make us Micronesian.
In the area of Foreign Affairs, my Administration remains active in advancing the foreign policies and interests of this Nation at all levels. As you are well aware, Diplomacy in the Twenty-First Century is an Art which often requires a great deal of careful and concerted effort to bring results that, more often than not, do not manifest themselves until well into the future. Maintaining beneficial International Relationships is much like a garden that needs constant tending.
Given the declining trend of foreign assistance worldwide and the relatively slow growth of domestic resources, these relationships are more important than ever. Having established diplomatic relations with over fifty countries and having become a member of close to twenty international and regional organizations, we have laid the foundation for a sustained diplomacy. This is already bearing fruit in terms of economic and political gains for our nation.
We maintain close relations with our development partners and are indebted to them for their assistance with our nation-building efforts. I wish to make special mention of the excellent relationship we continue to have with the United States as defined principally by the Compact.
I am pleased to see the strong and genuine desire for a continuation of the relationship under the amended Compact. Our relations with the European Union have never been closer and stronger. Our historic entry into the ACP Community ensures an active dialogue with the European union in the years to come. The FSM also continues to enjoy a strong relationship with Japan, Australia, and China. Along with the United States, their physical presence in the FSM is indicative of their long-term commitment to our country. We are well aware of the extent of assistance provided by these countries. Through their accredited representatives who join us today, I wish to thank these nations for their continued support. I also cannot fail to mention with gratitude the support of our other close friends within the community of developed nations, such as New Zealand, Israel and Spain.
Relations with our Pacific Island neighbors also grow stronger. We continue to work closely with these nations both bilaterally and in regional organizations such as the Pacific Islands forum and the Standing Committee of the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders, which I am honored to chair. Of course, our closest ties are with the other Micronesian Nations, and I am thankful to my counterparts from these countries: President Remengasau of the Republic of Palau and President Note of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, for the remarkable spirit of cooperation that continues to guide our relations.
We have now successfully held two summits of Micronesian leaders and soon we will hold our third in the RMI. These meetings have helped forge a new sense of Micronesian regional unity and cooperation. They have also led to a number of specific initiatives of great importance, such as the recently concluded Maritime Surveillance Agreement.
Another important element of our Foreign Policy, Mr. Speaker, is to encourage the recruitment of our citizens by international and regional organizations. Service to international organizations provides valuable experience for the development and exposure of our deserving citizens as well as enhancing the profile of the Nation. The past year represents a milestone in this regard, with the appointment of Mr. Bellarmine Ioannis to the United Nation Secretariat in New York, and the selection of Mr. Asterio Takesy to serve as Director of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, based in Samoa.
As we all know, there is one area of our international relations that will be of historic importance in the coming year - the renewal of our relationship with the United States under the amended Compact of Free Association. This morning, many of you witnessed as negotiators from the United States joined our FSM negotiators here in this Chamber for an initialing ceremony that brings us very close to an agreement on the course of our relations with our closest ally for the next twenty years and beyond.
Whatever final form the amendments package may eventually take, it is critically important that we build upon the solid foundation established by the first fifteen years of the Compact. The FSM has come a long way, both economically and politically, with the help of the US during the first fifteen years. That forward momentum must be maintained. A wise Chinese proverb states: "Not to go forward is to go back." Together through the amended Compact, our nations must accelerate the pace of progress with the economic and social situation of the FSM, not only for those of us here today, but for the sake of future generations of Micronesians.
I wish to express my appreciation to you, Mr. Speaker, your colleagues in Congress, my Cabinet and the dedicated staff of each of our government agencies. day after day, often with very little fanfare or personal reward, these individuals work to make ours a better nation.
Regarding agency activities, my written submission contains detailed information as to progress being made on many fronts. I will briefly mention just a few here.
As we all know, our social and economic progress go hand in hand with the quality of our marine and air transport, and communications systems. We are working to improve internal marine transport services through a modernization and replacement program that will center around the new Caroline Voyager class ships, and provide more frequent and more economical passenger and cargo service throughout the nation. This Administration continually supports projects directed at the improvement of ports and harbors.
In the area of air transport, we are grateful to continental for the lifeline they continue to provide through their service. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the FSM will require increased International air service and more links to internal destinations. Current prospects under active discussion include Korean Airlines and the newly formed Rock Island Air. More broadly, the FSM is participating in negotiations among the forum island countries for a multilateral air services agreement to create a so-called, "open skies" region, in which increased services would be encouraged.
Communications technology continues to develop at a dizzying rate, bringing the world closer and also bringing with it a host of new challenges. By the way, if anyone in the chamber has not turned off your cell phone, you may wish to do so now! Seriously though, as great a convenience as our new cell phones are, by far the most important communications initiative now in progress is the replacement of our increasingly overburdened satellite system with the latest in fiber optic cable. This would provide much higher quality and more reliable, broadband connectivity of almost unlimited capacity.
We clearly have set the right course, and I look forward to furthering these as well as other important objectives in the next year and the years to come. Every single one of our citizens has made this nation a shining light in the central Pacific. We must continue to work together to ensure that we maximize our economic development potential, preserve our rich cultural and natural heritage, and further establish our leadership regionally and internationally.
Mr. Speaker, we as a nation have much to take pride in. This is sometimes lost on us as we focus on shortcomings in our quest for perfection. We must not lose sight of how far we've come, and guided by that same spirit, how far we can go in the future. Most importantly, we must not fail to learn from our mistakes and must use these lessons to avoid similar pitfalls in the future.
Three years ago at my inauguration I had a special message for the children in the crowd. I spoke of our special responsibility to them, as the first generation of our Nation's Leaders, to establish a sound footing for their governance and prosperity. My Administration has remained true to this underlying objective, and I firmly believe that the Micronesia of today offers more hope for our children than at any time in the past. It is our children who stand to benefit most from some of the forward thinking programs currently under consideration by my Administration, such as the proposal for the FSM to serve as a hub for assembly and distribution of electric vehicles, and the proposal to establish the FSM as an international center for intellectual property.
I thank you all for your hard work. I know I can count on you to continue our progress in the future. I am more proud today than ever to be a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia. We all can be proud to be Micronesian, but none of us can afford to rest on our laurels. We must roll up our sleeves and attend to the important tasks at hand with a sense of genuine determination. Let us not forget the words of Winston Churchill, who once said at a time when his people were working very hard against seemingly impossible odds, "It is not enough that we do our best. Sometimes we must do what is required."
Working together, we must be resolved to do whatever is required to complete the task of making our society a model of freedom from want and despair, and in so doing draw closer to this ultimate goal which is shared by all humanity. The wisdom of our ancestors, the bounty of nature and our own hard work thus far, have given us a fine start.
Thank you, and God bless the Federated States of Micronesia.