Federated States of Micronesia President David W. Panuelo presented his first State of the Nation address online on May 20, Wednesday morning, and briefed the 21st FSM Congress on the actions taken by the government to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the community, he said: “You will recall that the central theme of my inaugural address was ‘Taking Actions Today for Our Nation’s Prosperity Tomorrow.’ I wish to take this opportunity to brief Congress and our citizens on the actions the Panuelo-George Administration has taken in the past 12 months to make good on that promise.”
He added: “I also wish to update Congress on the actions our Government is taking to combat the COVID-19 threat which, like climate change, represents an enormous challenge and opportunity to our nation-building efforts.”
Highlights of Panuelo’s First State of the Nation Address:
- Financial support for stranded FSM citizens in the amount of $300,000. In the coming days, Panuelo said the government will be assisting its citizens currently stranded in transit abroad in Guam and Hawaii.
- FSM’s $16 million economic stimulus package. This primarily funded by local revenue, and currently focuses on the tourism sector. Panuelo said turnover revenues in 2019 were approximately $43 million, and the sector employs 1,048 people or about 6.7 percent of the FSM’s total labor force. $1 million has been distributed to more than 90 private sector entities.
- Pandemic unemployment assistance program. The FSM requested a grant of $40 million from the U.S. government to support FSM citizens who have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Panuelo said the program will pay a minimum of $166 dollars/week to affected individuals from February until December 31.
- Compact of Free Association negotiations. Panuelo said all parties are proceeding on a mutually agreed-upon rapid pace for the negotiations. He said the FSM has chosen its Chief Negotiator, Leo A. Falcam Jr., and the U.S. has chosen their negotiators.
- Climate change initiatives. Over the past year, the FSM has initiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the Waitt Institute and Blue Prosperity Coalition to protect 30 percent of its marine resources by 2030.
- United Nations to establish a Multi-Country Office (MCO) in the FSM. In addition, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank are also planning to set-up offices in the FSM.
“Our sovereign Micronesian Nation has sailed its canoe for 41 years. Our voyage has been guided by the collaboration between the Executive, Legislative, and the Judicial branches of our National and State Governments, which are the paddles for our canoe. We, the Chuukese, Pohnpeians, Kosraeans, and Yapese remain united as Micronesians, like the rope that ties our canoe together,” Panuelo said.
He added: “Our nation’s greatest strength is its unity. By paddling together in one direction, we will keep ourselves afloat in this storm. In time, we will see that these unprecedented challenges will reward us, and through sustainable policy-making, we’ll endure the hardship of the COVID-19 Pandemic by emerging as a more resilient and capable nation.”
The FSM recently celebrated 41 years of Constitutional Government. Panuelo said he is “humbled by the FSM leaders’ gracious and consistent determination to see to it that the nation’s greatest strength — its unity — remains at the forefront of all of its deliberations.