Owners of small business who are already struggling from the rising cost of fuel, imported goods, and the merchandise say they are compelled to increase their prices, reduce employees, or working hours or simply close if their electric bill jumps by 57 percent. When interviewed, most are reluctant or ashamed to speak on record about the dire consequences of the rising costs but all agree that they have never faced such bleak financial situation since they started their businesses years ago. (Tia Belau, May 30 - June 5, 2008)
With the 57 percent increase in electric rates for government and businesses, the government will have to find an additional $2 million to supplement its electric bill if PPUC implements the new rates on June 1...Director of National Treasury Marino Rechesengel when told of the proposed rate, reacted saying that the average government power bill is over $300, which comes to over $3.6 million a year and that supplemental funding as well as reducing use of power will be needed to make up the $2 million dollar additional cost. (Tia Belau, May 30 - June 5, 2008)
For energy charge, the rates for residential use of up to 500kwh will increase by 20 percent.From 501kwh to 2000 kwh will see a 41 percent price hike. 47 percent increase for those residences over 2000 kwh. The steepest increase is for commercial businesses and government which goes from $0.27/kwh to $0.425 or a 57 percent increase for use of power up to over 2000 kwh...PPUC says delaying the increase will only prolong the hardship and make it more difficult for the company and people. PPUC Chairman Kione Isechal said the impact of fuel hikes is so serious on the country as indicated by the findings of the study that it consumed 5 percent of the Gross National Product (GNP) in 2003 but this year in 2008, it went up to 25 percent.(Tia Belau, May 30 - June 5, 2008)
This afternoon the price of a gallon of gasoline jumped from $4.44 to $4.62. At this rate, a five dollar a gallon gasoline will be just around the corner, in time for your next paycheck.
However, everyone will be in for a rude awakening starting on Monday June 1, a national holiday which is the President's Day residential power rates will hike by a surreal 57 percent. For commercial businesses it will jump by 41 percent.
Senator Hokkons Baules in his closing remarks during thehearingsaid that despite the new Tax Taskforce recommendation to increase certain taxes he can assuredly tell everyone who are present that there will be no tax increase during this congressional term. And he confidently says he has the vote to prove it.
He went on to say "sel kumes er kid el rokui e ked ngara chelsel a imong el diall el mla merael ngmasech ra meched. E kid el rokui el di medengei el kmo ngera uchul. Ng President. A President a uchul aikal rokui el tekoi. Ma uchul mekede usaisei er elechang."
From the live radio broadcast this evening on the Senate'soversight hearing at Koror State Assembly Hall:
Senator Santy Asanuma: Palau soon could expect the next shipment to bring $40 Calrose Rice to the store shelves.
Former Ngaremlengui State Governor John Skebong: Palau Noni Farm is
buying over 600,000 pounds of noni annually. At $0.70 per kilogram it
comes to over $200,000 a year of income to noni farmers.
Ngirmang Moses Uludong: Tia bosech el beluu er a Belau a ngara chelsel.
PRA's Philip Reklai: Any increase in taxation at this time coupled with the expected 41 percent increase in power rates for commercial businesses might forced his company to lay-off workers. He has instructed his employees to shut off lights in PRA building to cut cost. Has asked banks to restructure business loan.
Jemima Etpsion: The already small profit margin the business operates on will be eaten away by the increase in taxes and the skyrocketing cost of electricity.
Nancy Wong of Best Coffee and Donut House: It seems that we are operation just so we can pay the next business bills.
Yokohama's Dilmei Olkeriil: With the escalating cost of everything, I came up with new price for the restaurant menu four months ago but has been hesitant in introducing the new price scheme because there are not that many people who eat out anymore. And any price increase will drive customers away.
Wilma Kumangai of Yuhi Motel: Business used to be good but now I am in debt. I had to take out my own personal savings to cover the business shortfall when the prices started to rise. Any tax increase will just make things worse, especially the employees who needs to be paid.
Scott Yano of Yano's Market: Since September of 2007, revenues have been going down and the business is barely making it. With the additional cost by the expected increase in electrical charges and if the taxes are approved than the business will be in serious survival mode. Now the only time that we can make good sales is during large sporting events or conferences.
Eunice Akiwo of A&A Gas Station: We still have the same number of customers who frequent the business but they used to gas up with $20 but now the same people are only paying $10 while the cost of operating the business is ever on the increase.
The PPUC has asked the national government to assist the government-owned corporation address the energy crisis about the rising fuel cost. Jacqui Alexander, PPUC's CFO, issued the call after the Senate RCTD Committee inquired on whether the public utilities could shoulder additional subsidies to the fuel cost...She said the issue of the energy subsidy or call for "urgent financial assistance" from the national government is not isolated to Palau as the four utilities in the four FSM states has done the same. (Island Times, May 27, 2008)
Hatohobei Delegate Thomas Patris has won the gubernatorial race in his state, and he won as a write-in candidate, according to unofficial results released by the Palau Election Commission. Patris beat the only declared gubernatorial candidate Sabino Sackarias by a big margin, who said he was shocked because he assumed he was the only one running for the post. Patris won by a vote of 63 with 33 going to Sackarias. (Island Times, May 27, 2008)
National Treasury Director Marino Rechesengel has asked the Senate for another authority certification to withdraw $1,055,000 from the compact non-trust fund to help finance the government...the funds will be used to cover some of the national government's expenditures this month...$500K alloted for general operations, $75K for patrol boat operations, and $160K for education assistance, and additional $320K for general operations...Rechesengel has requested the President to transfer the fund to the national treasury's account at the Bank of Hawaii no later than Wednesday next week, or on or before June 4. Earlier this month the treasury office has requested $1 million dollar to cover government's fund shortage. (Island Times, May 27, 2008)
Chin: Employment and better livelihood is a must. We need to orient our economy toward more self-reliance and sustainability as an urgent national goal. In line with a self reliant economy, the govern-broad national interests and social well-being, should be stimulated to assist Palauans develop a strong and vibrant economy. We must continue to foster our unique relationship with the United States, and actively seek more technical assistance, rather than money alone, to assist us in developing our economy on proper use (from the fourth item on Chin-Seid leaflet)
Toribiong: Our laws should encourage sustainable investments to enable our economy to create more and better opportunities for Palauan workers, entrepreneurs, and land owners in order to expand our tax base to make up for declining our economic development. The expanding base of our economy must also allow for cost-of-living adjustments for all Palauans. Tourism, agriculture fishing should be further developed to sustain us. We should actively explore and where feasible exploit our natural resources according to the highest environmental, social, and other internationally recognized standards. Employees deserve a pay raise now to cope with a prevailing high cost of living. (Second item in Toribiong-Mariur leaflet)
Surangel: Palau is at a critical time. Palau is faced with declining foreign assistance and rising cost of living. Palau must chart a course for a sustainable and self-sufficient economy and "Everyone must be on board"...When I first started my business 30 years ago, I was a fisherman selling fish in a pick-up truck in font of Palau High School. Then I saw and opportunity in the tourism and retail business. I then began taking tourist out by day and fishing during the night. People needed rice at an affordable price so I began selling out of my house. I have always believed that to be successful in business you must work hard, listen to your customers, and provide the best service at the best value for the customer. I also believe that you must have educated, trained and well paid employeestfo provide for and to deliver quality service in the most efficient way possible. I believe Palauans can be successful. And that we can compete in the world economy (Second and fourth paragraphs in Surangel Whipps English announcement of candidacy) Koshiba: Nothing on the economy. Still without a platform
After embarrassing myself with this prediction. Related post here. The pundit in me will once again offer this bit of news that has been circulating in some quarters that has Ignacio Anastacio being tapped to be Surangel's running mate. Surangel is off-island at the moment but we'll see if this one pans out upon his return.
Though I was off-island at the time during Toribiong's rally held at Long Island last April 27, the rally was filmed and now being played on cable.
A good orator. He showed good grasp of the issues and the ability to explain them, albeit loaded with anologies and historical anecdotes, that the crowd can appreciate and relate to.
However, one thing from the speech struck me glaringly. I'm not sure if you heard it the same way I did, but I think in a subtle way he took a swipe at his presidential opponents, namely Surangel and Chin. For Surangel, it was the part where he mentioned about the public's confusion between a 'businessman' and an 'economist'. In his speech he explained that a 'businessman' is someone who only cares about his business interests and profits while an 'economist' is the one who cares about the overall economic picture of the republic. With that statement he has without mentioning name delicately defined Surangel as the 'businessman' and he himself carved out an image to be like that of an economist with the only interest of the republic at heart.
The stab at Chin was two-pronged. One was when Toribiong projected himself as a visionary. Refering to U.S President Reagan when asked how he is so effective to which the president said that he only comes up with the ideas but it is his cabinet that implements the plans. He also used the analogy of a ship with big sleeping quarters. He said that some people concern themselves with how to tidy up the rooms and make them more livable without even raising their forehead to see what's up ahead. The ship is bound to ran aground without the pilot. The ship needs a pilot to steer it through rough waters and negotiate the shallow areas. The message appears to prop him up as the visionary while playing up the negative image of his opponent as a military man whose experience was only to take orders from commanders without much to policy input or strategies.
The second was toward the end when Toribiong trotted out his resume by mentioning the beginning of his public service from the early TT days up until the time he was President of the Second ConCon, saying that he has been with us all of the time. He is the only one who can gauge the temperature of every homes in Palau because he has been with us from the very beginning. This point I think was brought out faintly to remind voters that Chin was away for too long to really take hold of what's going on. And would jog the memory of those voters in 2004 election and the issue of Chin's citizenship that came up later.
That is my take. If you did attend or saw it on tv let's hear what you think.
A Johnson Toribiong campaign spot is being played on cable tv this past two nights. The video is from the rally held at Long Island park on April 27, 2008 on cable tv this evening. And since minimum wage is the hot issue here's what he had to say "In the first hundred days of my administration if elected president, I will increase the salary of the government employees in the form of COLA for one year. During that one year period a commission will be created to come up with new salary scale for both the government and private sector employees," said .
shThe Senate (Bill No. 7-119-135) has approved $1.5 million subsidy to PPUC for the rising fuel cost that the publicc company is mandated by law to pass on to customers.
In another action, the Senate has passed the House Bill No. 7-172-29S to limit the hour to which cabaret and club are to close from 4:00am to 2:00am but allows states to enact their law to earlier time.
Another bill, House Bill No. 7-164-10, was adopted in final reading that requires employment of harbor pilots, tugs, and barges for certain vessels in the Malakal harbor.
The senate this week also recieved to House bills. Bill No. 1-14-1 is to award any Palauan Olypmian winning medals as follows: Gold - $100,000; Silver - $75,000; Bronze - $50,000.
House Bill No. 7-185-02 is to create an open ship registry state in Palau. This is a major bill that has been pending in the OEK for many years.
Former State legislator Sasao Skiwo said that he has requested on numerous occasions, to see and review a complete status table report of Kayangel State Legislature and to this date has not seen a single page.
Speaker Harrington Olebuu said that he has instructed his staff to prepare a report to Skiwo. However, Skiwo failed to specify exactly what he needed and what he needed the report for..."though they are public record, we cannot simply give them out without knowing what they will be used for and how they will be used," Olebuu said. He futher said that some information can be twisted and used to hurt others. Further, legislative matters are sometimes very delicate, he said, and must be guarded so as not to cause public confusion. (Tia Belau, May 16 - 19, 2008)
Senate President Surangel said he is very adamant against new or increased taxes and will oppose such proposals until the end. He insisted it is crucial at this time of economic crunch that more cash is put in people's pockets and that a higher minimum wage at $3 an hour be enacted to be applied to all public and private employees. (Tia Belau, May 9 - 15, 2008)
Bill no. 7-245 introduced by Senator Santy Asanuma seeks to automatically suspend a member of a board of government commission, authority, committee and other entity or any other national officials or presidential appointees if accused of crime or civil wrong and to be terminated if found or admitted to be guilty..related to the perfomance of his or her duties. The bill in its findings states, "...that those who serve others in the government should be held to a higher ethical and professional standards than the ordinary citizen.". The suspension shall continue until termination, settlement, or reinstatement to his duty by court order. (Tia Belau, May 9 - 15, 2008)
HOD has adopted and transmitted to the Senate a bill to amend 24 PNC...to impose 15 year moratorium on taking of Palau's turtles from Palau's waters, including an imposition of greater penalties for violating the act. The bill introduced by Del. Kalistus Ngirturong noted the turtles at present are becoming increasingly threatened, as species are reduced due to consumption and commercial fishing...Under the proposed measure no killing or taking of green turtle (melob) except those showe shell are 34 inches when measured from the top of the carapace lengthwise. The bill also prohibits the seizure or killing of green turtle from May 1 to August 31 every year, as well as from December 1 to January 31 of each year. The bill also bans the harvest or killing of hawksbill turtles (Ngasech) regardless of size for 15 years after the effectivity of the measure. It also prohibits any hawksbill turtle shell or product from importing to Palau..."Commencing three years after the effective date of this act, no person shall manufacture turtle shell money...commencing 5 years after the effective date of this act, no jewelry store, retail, wholesale or other business operation, nor any individual, shall sell any turtle product and shall remmove any remaining inventory of turtles products," the bill stated. (Island Times, May 9, 2008)
The OEK has approved abolition of the Ministry of Commerce and Trade (MCT) and splitting the the Ministry of Resources and Development (MRD) into two ministries. Under the measure, MRD would be split into two amely Mnistry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce and Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism. The functions and responsibilities of MCT, which would be abolished, will be transfered to two new ministries and other existing ministries.
The Bureau of National Treasury is asking the Senate for authority to tap into the COFA non-trust fund to the tune of $1 million to cover cash shortage this month...to cover projected cash disbursements for the government's current operations and various programs...The drawdown for the COFA is $500,00 for general operations, $320K for unidentified general operations and expenditure, $75K for patrol boat operationa and $169K for education assistance. (Island Times, May 9, 2008)
Sen. Joshua Koshiba has asked the Senate provide more funding to the Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC)...he explained that the official mandate of the OIC started in August 2007 which will be a year old in three months time, while its work needs an additional 12 to 18 months to complete the job. " I appeal to the Ways and Means and the JGA to sponsor a bill that we can consider to extend Lewis Harley's length of stay and his funding." Koshiba said. (Island Times, May 6, 2008)
Sen. Santy Asanuma has appealed for "cooperation, kindness and ungil cheldecheduch" among the members of the Senate and the HoD after one of the speakers at the Governors Economic Forum last month branded the upper chamber "dysfunctional." Asanuma asked the members of the two chambers to avoid giving the public the impression that the relationship between the Senate and HoD is strained. He explained that if the two houses allow the public to doubt their leaders, the people will also lose their confidence and trust in the very institution that they think is their voice in addressing critical issues facing the public. (Island Times, May 6, 2008)
Sen. Baules has expressed concerns over the alleged medicine shortage at the Belau National Hospital (BNH). Baules during the senate session told senators of the alarming condition the BNH could not get funds from the Minisry of Finance...He said there are no available at BNH but there is medicine for sale at the private clinics. "We cannot take medicines from the private clinics because the govenment still owes money to the private clinics," Baules said. (Island Times, May 6, 2008)
The Civil Service Pension Plan board members have been ordered to get new counsel to defend them in the criminal suit filed by Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC) in relation to the $1 million loan given by the CSPP to the defunct Pacific Savings Bank. In a seven page order by the Chief Justice Arthur Ngiraklsong, gave CSPP defendants 30 days "to obtain new counsel and file and entry of appearance" before the high bench. The order further states that "this court is not inclined to permit the joint representation of all eight CSPP defendants by the same counsel...The SC ruled that conflict of interest exists because attorneys Anthony Long and Imelda Nakamura also represent the CSPP in a separate but related civil action, also filed by OIC. "Counsel overlooks the important distinction of identity between the Plan as an entity and the board members as individuals...The Plan itself is not a defendant in this matter and does not face criminal charges. If defendants are convicted on all counts of of information, the conduct charged in this matter may not be imputed to the entity," the court ruling stated.
It noted that the CSPP s merely interested in recovering the $1 million "loan" given by the Plan to PSB. "The interest of the individual board members can only be necessarily be defending themselves against potential criminal conviction and failing that, obtaining a lenient sentence." The conflict, it added, would become apparent if the defendants are convicted and sentenced to face restitution. "In the event, the interest of the Plan in recovering the entire $1 million are directly in conflict with the individual's interest in recieving a lenient order of restitution or in obtaining a stay of execution af any restitution order pending any appeal."
Independent Counsel Lewis Harley had accused the defendants, supposedly in conspiracy with the officers of the defunct PSB, "did unlawfully obtain the property or money of another, to wit, funds associated with CSPP $1,000,000 Time Certificate of Deposit...and used to support the bank's liquidity problem." He also alleged that the defendants used the CSPP contributor's money "by false pretenses, knowing the pretenses to be false, and with the intent to thereby permanently defraud the owner...They were also sued for money laundering for atempting to "conceal" or "disguise the illegal origin" of the $1 million CSPP loan in the form of a time certificate deposit with PSB. (Island Times, May 6, 2008)
With the Palau 2008 election campaign fever getting into the high gear, a review of the results of the 2004 election results should be of interest to the voters and this year's election aspirants for national office. 9,996 voters from the 13,191 went to the polls in the Nov. 2, 2004 elections.
For the candidates in 2004 in the Palau-wide election for President, Vice President, and nine senate seats, the top vote getter was:
The longest serving governor in Palau, Melekeok State Governor Lazarus Kodep has been reelected for a fifth term despite the 302 counts of criminal charges of abuses of public funds filed and dropped by Special Prosecutor Everett Walton at the height of the election campaign...Kodep won 187 votes with Frutoso "Toto" Tellei coming second garnering 127 votes and John Demei Elechuus bringing up the rear with 60 votes...There are 47 absentee ballots yet to be counted. Kodep is assured of a victory even before the counting of the absentee ballots which will be revealed in a week's time. (Tia Belau, May 2 - 8, 2008)