JT responds to PCOC concerns


President Toribiong has responded to the recommendations and concerns expressed by the Palau Chamber of Commerce (PCOC) regarding the proposed 2012 budget. The PCOC, in a letter to Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Mark Rudimch, expressed concerns on the attachment of rider in the budget bill and on the green fee being used to fund state governments.

Pres. Toribiong said that while he appreciates the concerns and recommendations, it must be made clear that a budget act must consider both the expenditures and revenues. The president stressed that the budget act should not be limited only to the consideration of how and where to spend public funds but also how and where new sources of revenues may be accessed.

That is why he said the term Ways and Means Committee means that of the Committee has to find ways and means to identify and raise new revenues to pay for the government operations, public services and programs. To lift out the new revenue-generating provisions from the proposed budget to unbalanced approach which may lead to budget deficits. By law, the President is required to submit a balanced or surplus budget each year.

On the Green Fee, the President said he will implement the administration and expenditure of the Green Fees, now in the sum of about $2.5 million, pursuant to current laws and regulations. He said Palau will pay $1.4 million to the Micronesian Conservation Trust Fund (MCTF) to match the TNC’s pledge if $1 million to raise its fund to $6 million with the balance to be administered by the Green Fee Fund Committee.

President Toribiong expressed the option that he is considering streamlining the process for the use of the green fees by reducing the bureaucratic red tape and expenses by allowing the states to utilize the funds for the actual protection of the PAN Sites, which the states own. He wants to prevent the funds from being spent on the administrative costs. The role of the national government and its agencies should be limited to technical assistance, coordinating and monitoring.

However, Pres. Toribiong believes that the Green Fee should be directed to the owners of the Protected Area Network (PAN) sites, namely the states. He asks, do you think the owners of these sites are any less committed to protect their own environment than anybody else. The President said that no PAN sites are owned by the national government. The Green Fee is administered by the PAN Fund Board which includes five presidential appointees, and the minister of Finance and Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism.

The President then explained that the reason that he want to raise taxes on tourists by raising the hotel room tax and Green Fee is to prevent Palau from descending into uncontrolled mass tourism in view of the country’s fragile environment, limited infrastructure, and vulnerable social structure. He said we should raise the “admission fees” to Palau.

Tia Belau
Volume 20, Issue 38 – September 19, 2011, Front Page

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