PALIKIR, Pohnpei—From November 3rd to 6th, 2022, representatives of the U.S. Government were in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to engage in a series of formal and less-formal meetings and consultations, including a meeting of the Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO) to discuss the FSM’s Health, Education, and Infrastructure Sectors. On November 4th, His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the FSM, and the Honorable Aren B. Palik, Vice President of the FSM, received the Honorable Carmen G. Cantor, Assistant Secretary for Insular & International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior, for a courtesy call following the conclusion of a recent meeting of the JEMCO.
Assistant Secretary Cantor described to President Panuelo and Vice President Palik that she was glad to be back in her second home, and briefed them on the outcomes of the JEMCO meeting. Of particular interest and importance to the Panuelo-Palik administration is the efficient and timely, yet well-managed and accountable, implementation of the Kosrae State Hospital and Chuuk State Hospital projects; the JEMCO passed a resolution regarding these.
Citizens unfamiliar with JEMCO may appreciate the following explanation. After the Compact of Free Association, as Amended, came into effect, JEMCO was established to strengthen management and accountability with regard to assistance provided under the Compact, and to promote the effective of use of funding. Comprised of representatives of the FSM and U.S. Governments, JEMCO reviews the development plans and other planning and budget documents of relevant FSM Government units, and monitors the progress made by the FSM toward sustainable economical development and budgetary self-reliance in relation to the FSM’s written goals and performance measures. JEMCO also consults with the providers of U.S. Federal Grant programs; reviews audits as called for in the Compact; reviews performance outcomes and other reported data; reviews and approves grant allocations, performance objectives, and, where appropriate, assessment tools; reviews and approves changes proposed by the FSM to the sectors that receive economic assistance under Title Two of the Compact; evaluates progress, management problems, and shifts in sector priorities; reviews quarterly Compact Trust Fund investment reports; and several other related tasks.
During the meeting with Assistant Secretary Cantor, President Panuelo reiterated the FSM’s perspective that, if the first iteration of the Compact of Free Association’s financial assistance and oversight processes could plausibly be described as too broad and unrestricted, that the second iteration, under the Compact of Free Association, as Amended, could equally be described as too focused and restrictive.
“I’m very much hopeful, and I believe this has already been discussed, that our respective Compact Negotiators teams agree with the premise that it is in our mutual interest to amend our various financial or fiscal procedures agreements,” President Panuelo said. “I believe that Compact One was too loose, and Compact Two was too rigid; I believe Compact Three can and must find a way that appeals to the public’s interest that every dollar of Compact-related funding be used responsibly, while also ensuring that essential projects and programs are not unnecessarily delayed due to excessive bureaucracy. The bottlenecks to our infrastructure programming need to be eliminated. Our country is a sovereign nation that practices the rule of law and accountability, and we need to be treated that way. The Compact isn’t a charity but a fair trade between two completely sovereign nations with the closest alliance that can never be found elsewhere, as our Micronesian men and women die for the same freedoms as any other American in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
The productive and positive meeting concluded with the President recalling the success of the U.S.- Pacific Island Country Summit held in Washington, D.C., and highlighting that the FSM-U.S. Enduring Partnership under the Compact had just reached its 36th anniversary.