WASHINGTON—U.S. and Federated States of Micronesia officials met in San Francisco last week for their mid-year meetings to discuss financial assistance provided for the benefit of the people of the Federated States of Micronesia on behalf of the people and government of the United States. The bilateral Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO) and the Compact Trust Fund Committee for the People of the Federated States of Micronesia are both chaired by U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs Director Nikolao Pula.
The JEMCO met to discuss policy issues and progress in the health, education, and infrastructure sectors as funded by the Compact, while the Trust Fund Committee met to review trust fund investments and discuss policy options to inform transition from direct grants to trust fund distributions after 2023.
The Compact Trust Fund was established under U.S. Public Law 108-188 to contribute to the economic advancement and long-term budgetary self-reliance of the people of the Federated States of Micronesia when annual grant assistance under the Compact expires after fiscal year 2023.
Pohnpei State Government officials present at the meeting provided information regarding record rainfall in Pohnpei on March 16 and 17 that led to several landslides and damaged roads around the island, taking the life of one young woman. The JEMCO encouraged FSM officials to explore accessing the use of funding that is immediately available to the FSM through its Disaster Assistance Emergency Fund. This Fund is co-financed by annual deposits of Compact of Free Association and FSM Government funding.
“With respect to infrastructure, we are pleased to see professional project management at the national level and encourage that trend to continue for the states as well,” said JEMCO Chair and OIA Director Nik Pula. “Continued delays in effectively utilizing infrastructure assistance made available through the Compact of Free Association are missed opportunities for development in the Federated States of Micronesia,” continued Pula.
The JEMCO members discussed efforts at the state and national Departments of Education to strengthen their school accreditation processes and policies. The committee also received updates on the status of a nearly completed Education Management Information System (EMIS), a collaborative project funded by U.S. Department of Education supplemental education grants and supported by technical assistance through the Asian Development Bank. “We strive ultimately for improved data management and analysis of education indicators to result in improved educational outcomes for children in the Federated States of Micronesia,” said Chairman Pula.
Leadership from the national and Yap State Departments of Health shared information on progress in bringing electronic health record keeping to hospitals and clinics across the Federated States of Micronesia. Development of this program is 80 per cent completed in the State of Pohnpei which also serves as a pilot for a telehealth program. It is hoped that successful efforts in electronic record keeping and telemedicine can be replicated in the States of Chuuk, Kosrae, and Yap.
As required under the Compact of Free Association, U.S. Public Law 108-188, the JEMCO serves to ensure effective oversight of U.S. assistance to the Federated States of Micronesia and is comprised of the following members: Chairman Nikolao Pula (U.S. – Director, Office of Insular Affairs, Department of the Interior), Vice Chairman Lorin Robert (FSM – Secretary of Foreign Affairs), Leo Falcam, Jr. (FSM– Chief of Staff, Office of the President), Nicholas Dean (U.S. – Director, Office of Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Island Affairs, Bureau of East Asian & Pacific Affairs, State Department), and Subroto Banerji (U.S. – Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Region 9, Department of Health and Human Services).
“With respect to the Trust Funds, we all seem to concur that longevity of the Trust Fund is in the best interest of our two nations and that ensuring the stability and predictability of distributions in 2023 makes the most sense for U.S. assistance intended for the benefit of the people of the Federated States of Micronesia,” said Chairman Pula. “These are technical and administrative issues that the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia need to mutually agree upon as we approach 2023 and plan a smooth transition of U.S. assistance from direct grants to trust fund distributions.”
The Department of the Interior is responsible for coordinating federal policy with respect to the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administering and overseeing U.S. federal assistance provided to the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. The Office of Insular Affairs’ mission is to restore trust and fulfill insular responsibilities by executing activities which bolster healthcare capacity, strengthen island economies, and fulfill U.S. Compact obligations. The Assistant Secretary discharges these responsibilities on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. (PR)