30 August 2011

Puerto Rico House to probe rum industry incentives


By Caribbean Business Online Staff

(Puerto Rico) House Speaker Jenniffer González (has) introduced legislation...ordering an investigation into the government’s handling of the local rum incentives program amid complaints by Destilería Serrallés that the Fortuño administration has given Bacardi Corp. an unfair advantage over other producers in Puerto Rico.

House Resolution 1779 states that Law 178, the new rum incentives law, calls for the government to take the needed actions to make sure the rum industry remains strong and retains jobs amid a rum war with the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Nonetheless, there have been stories denouncing that the incentives granted by Economic Development & Commerce Department (DDEC) to liquor distillers has not been equal for all of the companies,” the resolution reads.

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS has reported that DDEC Secretary José Pérez-Riera has refused to grant Destilería Serrallés an incentives package similar to the one granted to Bacardi Corp. through a deal in February. Serralles President & CEO Felix Serrallés has complained that DDEC agreed to give Bacardi 46 percent of federal rum rebate revenues generated by its rum sales starting in July 2012. The DDEC has offered Serralles 25 percent of federal rum rebate funds on its bulk rum sales, the lion’s share of its business, and 46 percent on its bottled-rum sales.

The local incentives were launched against the backdrop of a rum war between Puerto Rico and the USVI. That fight was sparked by the USVI’s move to grant huge incentives based on federal rum rebates to British-liquor giant Diageo to start producing there.

Diageo’s Captain Morgan rum has been made under contract by Serrallés, but production is being moved to St. Croix after Diageo landed the incentives from the USVI, including a new cutting-edge distillery. While Diageo’s departure will affect Puerto Rico’s entire rum industry because of the potential decrease in federal rum rebates, a government study conducted by Applied Research says Serrallés will be hurt most, since it will lose as much as 70 percent of its sales volume.

The contract with Bacardi includes other benefits, such as $95 million to refurbish its Cataño plant and expand its aging warehouse.

In return, the company has to maintain a minimum level of production in Puerto Rico for the next 20 years, an agreement that translates into more than $230 million in yearly revenue for Puerto Rico through federal rum excise taxes, according to Economic Development & Commerce Secretary José Pérez-Riera.

Bacardi President Joaquín Bacardí has said he doesn’t sell bulk rum other than to Trigo Corp. and Edmundo B. Fernández, the latter which makes Barrilito rum.

Pérez-Riera told Serrallés in a letter that if Bacardi were ever to compete in the bulk-rum business with Serrallés, the DDEC would increase Serrallés’ incentives. A massive bipartisan tax package inked by President Barack Obama in December included the temporary increase in limit on cover over of rum excise taxes to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The temporary increase, which has been approved every year since the early 1990s, boosts the territories’ shares of federal rum taxes. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands currently get $13.25 of the $13.50 tax slapped on each proof gallon of rum. Lawmakers must renew the increase or the rebate will drop back to $10.50.

The federal government returns most of the $13.50 per proof gallon tax on rum distilled in each territory and in foreign countries to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The territories keep the revenue produced in their jurisdiction, and taxes collected on foreign rum are split between the two jurisdictions based on their ratio of the U.S. market. That’s what makes the move from one territory to the other so painful: the U.S. Virgin Islands share of foreign tax rebates also goes up at Puerto Rico’s expense.

In 2008, Puerto Rico received about $370 million and the U.S. Virgin Islands some $80 million under the program. Puerto Rico currently has an 86 percent share to the U.S Virgin Island’s 14 percent, but after Captain Morgan’s move, the proportion will change to a 60 percent-40 percent split, according to industry experts.

The USVI government also entered into a similar deal that will use federal rum tax-rebate proceeds to finance $105 million in improvements to the Cruzan rum facilities on St. Croix and provide other benefits.

In response to the USVI moves, Puerto Rico passed legislation this year that gives the island government a range of tools to boost producers.The legislation increased from 10 percent to 25 percent the portion of the monies from the federal rum rebate that the island government can invest to provide incentives to and promote Puerto Rican rums. That amount had been capped at 10 percent by local legislation. In addition, it gives the government of Puerto Rico the ability to work directly with rum producers to develop incentives and promotional strategies that will enhance their competitiveness and, therefore, their potential for growth in the future.

The measure also gives the governor the discretion to increase this percentage up to 46 percent if the U.S. Congress does not impose, before December 31, 2011, a cap on the amount of subsidies that a U.S. jurisdiction can give a rum producer out of the federal rum excise tax cover-over program.

Inconsistencies continue under British direct rule in Turks & Caicos


UK Governor of Turks and Caicos Lies About Delay in Corruption Investigation, Blames Labour Party

Exposing the truth behind Turks and Caicos Corruption Investigation, and the most recent lies by the British

by AnselLoya
ground report

Governor, Gordon Wetherell, just put out another interview as he is set to depart as the UK-appointed governor of Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). He oversaw the British occupation regime in Turks and Caicos after the UK takeover of the islands on August 9, 2009.

The topic of his interview this week was to address the dragging corruption investigation for which the Turks and Caicos people and parliament have grown increasingly impatient for its conclusion. Wetherell blamed the delayed and lengthy (so far, 2 years) corruption investigation of Helen Garlick’s Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT) on the former British Labour government.

Wetherell said in an interview this week, “the former British Labour government has delayed the investigative process.” Therefore, he said, SIPT could not progress properly because of inadequate funding, he continued, “SIPT was funded one year late and only after the government in Britain changed in May 2010.”

TCI people are shocked to hear Wetherell make such a claim of a delay or lack of funding. The truth is, there was no delay. “Helen Garlick was appointed as the Special Prosecutor to the Turks and Caicos Islands on 10 August 2009” (House of Commons report). Helen Garlick’s team was installed one day after the British takeover (August 9, 2009) and has been installed in TCI continually ever since.

The truth is that SIPT was working continually, thanks to funding by the TCI government treasury. A report by the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) noted that Helen Garlick herself expressed concern that her investigation had become a burden on the budget of TCI Government.

On March 10, 2011, Gordon Wetherell himself admitted that the TCI Government had been funding SIPT. It wasn’t until March 2011 that the British government finally agreed to fund SIPT to take the burden from the TCI treasury. It was Wetherell who made a statement on March 10, 2011 stating that “a $10.6 million discretionary grant will reimburse the government for the “full costs” for fiscal year 2010-11 for the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT) and the Civil Recovery Team.” Wetherell acknowledged just there that the Turks and Caicos government was paying for the corruption investigation the entire time and further revealed the amount already paid by the TCI treasury, $10.6 million! How can he lie now that the investigation was not funded, which he says caused a delay?

If Wetherell’s lie is to be believed, that there was no funding for SIPT causing a delay, what was SIPT doing in TCI? They are continually installed in TCI on an expense account, living the high life in TCI in luxury whilst TCIslanders are waiting to have democracy restored pending this investigation. 2 years without democracy so that a poorly planned corruption investigation can proceed is an abusive of power. What is going on with SIPT? Why are the British now lying about a delay, and why is it being paid by a loan to TCI, and why is it taking so long, and why is democracy being withheld during this never-ending investigation?

Something quite amusing, the British say that the Turks and Caicos Islands are in a fiscal crisis requiring loans by the UK, VAT and more taxes. But this week Wetherell pointed out, “Colin Roberts visited the TCI and in a press conference said that (UK) assistance would not be forthcoming because the TCI was ‘rich’.” The British can’t get their story straight, is the TCI rich or is it in need of burdensome UK loans and taxes due to the PNP government’s (former local government) poor fiscal legacy?

Another amusing fact is in December 2009, MP Chris Bryant said that the FCO will not provide a loan or funding for the investigation because, “It has always been our view that the former TCI Government is responsible for its present financial crisis. It is therefore correct that the Territory pays to sort out these matters. It is not appropriate to ask the British taxpayer to do so.” Therefore, TCI treasury was required to pay the investigation even though the TCI people didn't ask for the investigation, nor did they get a vote on it.

None of the British bureaucrats know what they are talking about. Chris Bryant said he believed that the former PNP administration should pay for the corruption investigation, even while the TCI treasury was paying it, because the PNP (random people who have not even faced trials nor have had the benefit of a completed corruption investigation) had been forcibly removed from office by the British.

The people of TCI should not suffer financially, socially or lose their freedoms because of a corruption investigation ordered by the British government, especially the incompetent and delayed circus it has become by both parties in Britain. It is absurd.

The people of TCI are still wondering why there haven't been any results from this ongoing investigation, nor have any persons been identified to stand trials yet. It is curious why the British Governor felt forced to (albeit clumsily and falsely) address the investigation delay. Members of Parliament, including Lord Nigel Jones, have been asking questions about Turks and Caicos' return to democracy and local elections. The corruption investigation is a milestone which must be completed prior to TCI returning to self rule.

In the meantime, the delay caused by the bumbling corruption investigation is suspected to be a calculated means to stall the TCI people while the British installed their new constitution in TCI, a constitution for which the people did not vote.

28 August 2011

‘The Not-So-Secret Guam Wikileaks’


by Michael Bevacqua

 FORMER Congressman Robert Underwood used to call Guam “The Rodney Dangerfield of the Pacific” because it never seems to get much respect from the federal government or from the United States in general. So when I first heard that there were Guam mentions in the much discussed and maligned Wikileaks archive of U.S. State Department communiqués, I was certain that most of them wouldn’t be of any substance, but rather would reflect the way Guam is often mentioned in American popular culture; as the butt of jokes. Eventually we learned that the details were very important and shed much light on how the Guam military buildup was or wasn’t really planned. They were salacious enough, although not in the silly way I had initially wished for. For your reading pleasure, here are some of the not-so-secret Wikileaks Guam mentions that I imagined finding.

I was certain that several of them would simply be conversations wherein confused employees of the State Department debated what exactly Guam is, or if it even exists. It wasn’t too long ago that a Chamorro woman in Texas had to argue that Guam exists and is a part of the United States in order to join a federal program for child care for her kids. She received a letter of rejection because of the fact that being from Guam, her children were not U.S. citizens. When she called to let them know about the error, and that she had even provided their birth certificates, she was laughed at by a supervisor who told her that he had attended college and never heard anything about Guam being a part of the U.S.

I myself have had issues with Guam birth certificates and how they may not count as U.S. birth certificates. Once, while my renewed passport was late arriving on Guam, I traveled to California using just my Guam birth certificate. On my return trip, I was to fly on Delta from Los Angeles to Honolulu, but was not allowed to fly since while the staff at Delta knew that Guam existed, they were nonetheless certain it was a foreign country and so my birth certificate did not prove that I was a U.S. citizen. When I argued Guam was a colony and territory of the U.S., I was told to go call my embassy. When I responded that Guam doesn’t have one, I was told to call the U.S. State Department to get evidence that Guam wasn’t a foreign country. Needless to say, I didn’t fly until several days later. No doubt one of the Wikileaks was probably about my futile call to the State Department attempting to obtain a letter from Hillary Clinton saying that Guam is a part of the United States.

Perhaps the mentions were used in the way Guam was for a very long time in different parts of the federal government; as a place to which careers are exiled. Punishment for poor performance or incurring the wrath of a vindictive boss could get you a mythical transfer to the farthest and most isolated corners of America and its empire. Guam was, for a very long time, prime real estate and a strategically important location amongst the list of places federal employees did not want to be sent. Film buffs will remember the Guam mention at the end of the movie “Good Morning Vietnam.” Robin William’s antagonist throughout the film, played by the late J.T. Walsh, is given his punishment for being the story’s sourpuss. What is his sentence? A transfer to Guam. “Guam sir?” he shrieks, “There’s nothing going on in Guam. Why Guam!?”

I had a bet that after someone at the State Department had screwed the diplomatic pooch, a conversation followed where someone was chided that surely the only place their career was heading now, is to Guam!
Last October, inboxes around the U.S. were filled with a Guam story that seemed to be either a very late or very early April Fool’s prank or a poorly written news parody from The Onion. I was certain that Wikileaks would contain at least one mention about how the U.S. was bombing Guam with frozen mice in order to kill snakes. How could people not talk about this story, which on the surface boggles the mind?

One of the saddest things about the actual mentions of Guam that came from the Wikileaks troves, was that when they were revealed on Guam they had little effect. Although the leaks showed there were serious issues of deception and overall miscommunication between different federal agencies over the Guam buildup and negotiations with Japan, it did little to affect people’s perceptions or opinions about the buildup or how the Department of Defense is handling the issue. What is truly unfortunate is that people probably would have cared more or been more enraged if the Guam mentions from Wikileaks had been of the caliber I have joked about in this column.

25 August 2011

Puerto Rico's ruling pro-integrationist party challenges commonwealth status


By Rafael R. Díaz Torres
Special to Puerto Rico Daily Sun

Puerto Rican Senate president, Thomas Rivera Schatz and Gov. (Luis) Fortuño challenged leaders from the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to explain what version of the commonwealth they are promoting now under the presidency of Alejandro García Padilla.

In declarations made on Tuesday after the senatorial caucus between members of the parliamentary majority and the island’s first executive, Rivera Schatz blamed the PDP for allegedly defending a territorial commonwealth that, according to him, is threatening the provision of federal social services and funding from the U.S. central government.

“What the PDP proposes is to remain with a commonwealth that did not allow us to negotiate when the federal government wanted to cut social funding for the elderly, single mothers and health,” asserted the Senate president. “The PDP proposes to remain with a commonwealth that has us in a state of defenselessness.”

For Fortuño, the PDP leadership needs to announce to Puerto Ricans what version of commonwealth they will be defending in the eventual occurrence of a status plebiscite event like the one promoted by the New Progressive Party (NPP) majority in the legislative assembly.

“What would the PDP leadership do, what formula of status do they prefer,” asked Fortuño. “Do they prefer a sovereign commonwealth, one geared toward free association or a territorial option such as one created in 1952. Let’s just wait and see if they defend a sovereign commonwealth that threatens federal funding and the existence of the federal district court on the island.”

The issue of status was raised after members of the press asked Fortuño and Rivera Schatz about what they thought of former Gov. Pedro Rosselló’s comments regarding the possibility of holding the plebiscite after the 2012 general elections and not on the same day, as has been considered by the NPP executive and legislative leadership.

Neither Fortuño nor Rivera Schatz commented about the possible date for the status plebiscite and preferred to comment on the alleged defense of colonialism from PDP leaders.

“Now they [PDP leaders] want to divert our attention and talk about the date of the plebiscite,” said Rivera Schatz. “They keep making excuses and avoiding talking about the possibility of losing federal checks and refusing to establish taxes to corporations in order to lower taxes to Puerto Ricans.”

As part of the first phase of the plebiscite process, the NPP plans to approve legislation to ask the Puerto Rican voters whether or not they want to remain with the current territorial commonwealth established in 1952

24 August 2011

Nigeria Launches two satellites in orbit for high resolution imagery

African Diplomacy

Abuja, Aug 17 (PTI) Determined to firm up its drive towards technological advancement, especially in relation to Information Communications Technology (ICT), Nigeria today launched two observation satellites into the orbit to be used for disaster management, with President Goodluck Jonathan describing the move as another milestone in his country's effort to solve national problems through space technology. The construction and launch of the satellites cost Nigeria N17.42 billion.

Both satellites were built at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) in Guildford, UK, under contract with the Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA). NigeriaSat-X was constructed through an SSTL training and development programme at SSTL in Guildford. In total, 26 Nigerian engineers participated in the project, working on the satellite for 18 months throughout the design and test phases. The NigeriaSat-X offers 22 m multi-spectral GSD across a 600 km swath width.
Dr. S. O. Mohammed, the head of NASRDA, commented: "NigeriaSat-2 will significantly boost African capabilities for remote sensing applications, specifically for natural resource management."

Read full article here

Puerto Rico House adopts bill that would reduce number of legislative seats


Puerto Rico Daily Sun
By Stefan Antonmattei

After considerable figurative arm twisting, House Speaker Jenniffer González obtained the necessary 36 votes required to pass the legislation that will reduce -- by 2017-- the number of representatives and senators in the Puerto Rico legislature. Sixteen legislators voted against the measure. The Senate has already passed a similar bill.

The New Progressive Party bill calls for a referendum in which voters would decide if they want to amend the Constitution and reduce the number of legislators from 78 to 56, in the House from 51 to 39 members, and in the Senate from 27 to 17 (11 district senators and six at-large senators). The measure will now go to a House and Senate conference to resolve any differences. The bill would become effective on Jan. 2, 2017.

At a time when the Puerto Rico legislature has a very low approval rate from potential voters, the leaders of the Popular Democratic Party called on Thursday for a change in the work ethic of the island’s representatives and senators. The statements were made earlier in the day against the NPP proposal to have a referendum, probably in March 2012, to amend the Constitution to reduce the number of members in the legislative body.

“The NPP legislators live in a marble bubble and do not represent the common citizen,” said PDP President Alejandro García Padilla at a press conference at party headquarters.

“Their proposal is completely cosmetic. The measure, which would be implemented in 2017 — six years from now — would reduce the number of members but not the budget for payroll and benefits. What they are doing, indeed, is getting a salary increase at the same time the common citizen gets a 12 percent hike in the electric bill — when they were promised a reduction.”

García Padilla said his party would vote with the NPP majority if they included the following amendments: a single regular legislative session (instead of two), a change in the member compensation, the introduction of the citizen legislator, and an effective date of 2013, not 2017.

“If the NPP is unwilling to consider these measures, the PDP will do so [upon winning the next elections],” said García Padilla. Rep. Héctor Ferrer, PDP vice president, said that “since 2009, the PDP has presented many of these proposals before the House of Representatives [HB 3556 and 3557]. If they [the NPP] truthfully want to transform the legislative assembly, today, we present once again legislation to do so and there are no excuses to not have them approved.”

The NPP is now expected to introduce a bill to create a new electoral redistribution. The measure would add two new members, one appointed by the House and another by the Senate to the committee that maps representative and senatorial districts. The current structure includes two persons nominated by the governor and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

“This is the NPP poison pill and will result in nothing more than legislative gerrymandering,” said Ferrer, who added “they are cheating” with regards to how the electoral redistricting would favor the NPP.

The House needed exactly 36 votes to pass the bill. The NPP delegation numbers 37, but several representatives had gone on record against the measure, including David Bonilla, Elizabeth Casado, Eric Correa, Waldemar Quiles, Rafael “June” Rivera, and Ángel “Gary” Rodíguez. According to press reports, Quiles and Rivera voted in favor of the measure.

Guaynabo Mayor Héctor O’Neill, a former two-term senator (in 1988 and 1992), called the bill “cosmetic.” Although the mayor favors a reduction in membership, he says the bill should also include the return of the citizen representative who only receives a per diem and not the $73,755 annual salary legislators currently receive. According to O’Neill, the bill should also include term limits and a reduction many of the benefits received by legislators. O’Neill became mayor in 1993 after the death of then Mayor Alejandro “Junior” Cruz.

García Padilla said at the press conference that “the proposal by the NPP does not reduce legislators’ salaries nor the many benefits like car allowance and per diems, it does not reduce the legislative body from two [Senate and House] to one — as was approved in a referendum in 2007 — and does not make the legislator a citizen representative.”

The car stipend alone is estimated to cost the taxpayer more than $1 million a year while the amount paid in salaries nears $6 million annually. On average, a member of the legislative body earns nearly $150,000 a year between salaries, benefits, and stipends. The average salary for a Puerto Rican employee is about $15,000. According to the 2009 Puerto Rico Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census, the average family income in Puerto Rico was $31,355.

According to García Padilla, Puerto Rico has the second most expensive legislature — only California spends more on its legislative body—but it is number 45, out of the 50 states plus the territories, for the amount of representation. “The problem is the quality of legislator. We are seeking to give Puerto Rico a better legislator, a citizen legislator with a culture geared towards civil service,” said García Padilla.

23 August 2011

Bermuda and the Struggle for Reform: New Book

Bermuda and the Struggle for Reform:
Race, Politics and Ideology, 1944-1998

A new book by Walton Brown Jr.
political analyst and social commentator 

This book is a study of the quest for social reform in Bermuda. It starts with the Bermuda Workers Association, the first organisation combining economic, social and political struggles and which sought to transform Bermuda for the betterment of its people; it ends with the 1998 election of the Progressive Labour Party, the party formed in 1963 to carry on with the agenda for social and political reform. A number of themes are brought into relief which will help the reader to better understand the making of modern Bermuda:

(1) the insertion of race into the fabric of modern Bermuda; (2) the successful use of ideology by the dominant elite to hold on to power; and (3) the limited role played by the formal political process in effecting change. A rich source of archival material brings new insights into the making of modern Bermuda.

Available August 15
Strongly recommended by OTR!

22 August 2011

French Polynesia Assembly adopts decolonization resolution; calls for re-listing by United Nations


Editor's Note: Whilst the relevant United Nations committees are focused on ways and means to de-list the remaining dependencies from the United Nations List of Non Self-Governing Territories (NSGTs) - even as they have not yet achieved full self-government - a number of non-independent countries in the Caribbean, Pacific, Africa and Asia have been calling on the world body to re-list these countries in order that the nature of their prevailing political status arrangements might be re-assessed by the world body. Puerto Rico, Canaries and West Papua are several examples.

Many of these 'former' dependencies were removed from the U.N. list through formal resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly as far back as the middle 1950's. Others were de-listed without benefit of resolutions - such as French Polynesia. The decisions to de-list were based primarily on the assurances of the cosmopolitan power that the territories had achieved a sufficient level of self-government - a determination which may not have been shared by the people of the territories at the time, nor consistent with the objective reality.

Such decisions were made well before the parametres of full self-government had been fully  formulated by the United Nations through instruments such as the Decolonisation Declaration and other relevant resolutions further refining the international requirements for democratic governance, and most recent human rights conventions affirming the right to self-determination. 

Since the United Nations has no formal procedure to revisit the earlier decisions to de-list territories, efforts have been undertaken in some countries to garner international support for their re-listing by the United Nations. A major step has been taken to this effect by the French Polynesia Assembly which has adopted a formal resolution calling on the French Government to support the re-listing of the territory. The response by the international community - especially the Pacific region - will be instructive given the initial French response to the French Polynesia initiative. 

Ironically, the ongoing process of self-determination in New Caledonia via the Noumea Accord - with  its difficulties and complexities - can serve as a model for adaptation to the French Polynesian political reality. This could serve as a progressive approach to advance democratic governance in the Pacific region.


The French Polynesian Assembly has approved, Thursday, a resolution asking French President Nicolas Sarkozy to reinscribe French Polynesia on the UN decolonization list. A majority of 30 Assembly members voted for the resolution, while 26 voted against it.The majority is mostly made of Oscar Temaru's pro-independence Tavini huiraatira party with also some Assembly members from the Outer Islands.

The resolution is now to be presented to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in September, in Auckland, New Zealand. French Polynesia president Oscar Temaru also plans to send the resolution to the United Nations, in New York.

Pro-autonomy parties voted against the resolution after a heated debate. One of the leading opposition politician Senator Gaston Flosse said the way the vote took place was unfair. Flosse claimed France will anyway lobby against this resolution.

French Foreign Affairs minister Alain Juppé will attend the Pacific Islands Forum meeting, Flosse told Assembly members.

Read the text of the resolution  here. (French)

Tahitipresse interview with Oscar Temaru, President of French Polynesia 


Tahitipresse: Are not you the impression that it was adopted in a hurry while the debates were rather long and relatively quiet, and all of a sudden it rushed and it was adopted a little in the frenzy of the moment, no?

Temaru: I think the President of the Assembly had set a time for that folder which is three hours, and I think it is 1:15 p.m. ET we're well over since we started around 10am. So everyone could express themselves, all groups had their voice, but I could not refuse that we continue to discuss this issue, it's so exciting!

Tahitipresse: But in fact, it was an extremely important debate, and we just felt that it was adopted as it is ... very surprising ...

Temaru: This is not the first time we talked about in this forum. It's been 33 years since we talked about! We know very well what happened in New Caledonia and there, it seems that we are dealing with blind.

Tahitipresse: You have recovered the voice of Heifara Izal, it's one more vote for the UPLD?

Temaru: I think that this is not a new decision. In 2004, when we met to create the UPLD, with Emile Vernaudon (Heifara Izal companion, Ed), signed the resolution prepared by all groups who were there for the reinstatement of our country on the list of countries decolonization. So it's not a new position and I thank him.

Tahitipresse: How do you respond to questions from Flosse that says:''Why seek autonomy, already. This is the path to independence ...''

Temaru: Yes, that is. I hope that you have chosen the words of Mr. Flosse:''We are an autonomous country!''Between an autonomous country as he puts it, community and state ... there is a gap! Because the reality is what? This is written in this organic law, statutory law in this! We are a community of like all the common state of our country. This is the reality. Maybe a few times it will still say:''I have lied.'' No. He can read!

Tahitipresse: Why not ask for a referendum on the opposition. He also made the proposal ...

Temaru: Yes, this proposal was made. And I said, in Tahitian language course, we must think about it. But it will freeze the list. Currently, those who landed here after three months, have the right to vote. We say no, it's not normal. We can not let everyone participate in this vote, it is not possible! It is an innate and inalienable right which belongs to the people Maohi and we say, perhaps we must accept it from those who have at least ten years of residence in this country. Why not? But it is discussed if we want to be in line with international standards.

Tahitipresse: For you, what are the consequences of this vote? Because such Tahoeraa said it was a stab in the water, others spoke of''serious consequences''. What is the purpose of this resolution for you?

Temaru: I am not a magician! I have to go to Samoa. I am invited by the conference of all the Churches of the Pacific and before leaving, we took care to consult all religious denominations in our country, at least the most important.

Tahitipresse: To talk about this issue?

Temaru: To address this issue. To inform them, tell them I am invited and here is what we'll talk. Because I'm sure as Samoa, the Pacific Conference of Churches, so all the churches, we will ask that question! I also know that there are some representatives from our church to participate in this conference. And I must remind you that all churches have representation in New York at the UN. That's it. And I said in Tahitian, we have a hard time to promote our country. Every year we spend over a billion Fcfp. Imagine the day when the question of our country will be discussed in the National Assembly of the United Nations! They are millions and billions of people who will finally see Tahiti Nui on the screen! We'll talk about our country, the future of our country, and the desire of the people to regain sovereignty maohi. What is wrong with that?

Tahitipresse: What's next now? You ask Nicolas Sarkozy to help Polynesia in the resolution to re-register on this list ...

Temaru: That the French government does not interfere with the democratic will, because the vote is past. There was a majority vote for the first time in the history of our country! So if France is a democratic state, the president should support us in this direction.

Tahitipresse: If it does not?

Temaru : Well that, we'll see what that member countries, first Pacific Forum, will decide, because it is not granted. It's been 33 years that I am fighting for it and if there is a favorable resolution in this direction then we will go to New York to meet with all member countries (UN). That, too, it is not easy because France is a country influence within the United Nations.

Tahitipresse: What do you say to Gaston Tong Sang who cares whether countries such as Iran, Syria ... who are not models of democracy, which decide the fate of Polynesia?

Temaru: I am just saying that we must stop this policy of intimidation. We have successfully re-registration of New Caledonia in 1986. In 1988, we had the Matignon Accords, and it is thanks to the reinstatement of that country on the list of decolonizing countries, and France agreed to work together. Does he have to go through the bloodshed for us to be heard? It is not normal! I am a democrat. I respect all opinions.

21 August 2011

New Study Affirms Alarming Disparities in U.S. Health Research Funding


Press Release

U.S. Congressional TriCaucus Members Call for a Renewed Investment in the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Health Disparities

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released the results of a study entitled, “Race, Ethnicity and NIH Research Awards.”  The study found that despite its current programs to increase the racial and ethnic diversity among its intramural and extramural biomedical and health services research workforce and grantee pool, there are serious and persistent racial and ethnic disparities in the manner in which NIH funding is awarded.

“The findings from this study – which are extremely alarming – raise serious questions about various NIH processes and review panels that should be objective and fair, in both intent and in outcome,” noted Congresswoman Donna Christensen, a physician and the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Health Braintrust.   “They also underscore the immediate need for the leadership at NIH to more demonstratively support, expand the authority of and increase funding allocated to the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to lead, evaluate, and coordinate racial and ethnic minority and health disparity research and training.”

“Today’s report underscores the need for NIH to act quickly and with determination to strengthen the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities to aggressively address the inequities detailed in this important study,” added Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Chair of the HealthCare Task Force for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and member of the House Committee on Appropriations.  

There are a number of preliminary action items that the Congressional TriCaucus, whose members have long championed health disparity elimination as a national priority, will be recommending to Dr. Francis Collins.  These recommended steps will address the clear racial and ethnic inequities in the granting of awards and the award process highlighted in the study.  The TriCaucus will also suggest ways to utilize NIMHD to strengthen NIH’s commitment to health disparities research and to targeted recruiting, mentoring, and training of racial and ethnic minority researchers in all NIH fields.

“We sincerely applaud NIH Director Collins for his leadership in requesting the study and his commitment to fixing this problem," added Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Chair of the Hispanic Caucus Task on Health. “We now have an important benchmark on which to judge NIH’s progress in addressing the disparities reflected in this report.  The research that comes out of NIH is among the best in the world and we look forward to working with Dr. Collins to ensure that diversity also becomes a cornerstone of NIH’s work.”

19 August 2011

Death Rate From Heart Attack Higher in U.S. Dependencies Than in U.S. States


By Karen N. Peart

There is a 17% greater risk of dying after a heart attack if you are treated in a hospital located in a U.S. territory - i.e. the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands-rather than in a hospital in the mainland United States, according to new findings published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study by Yale School of Medicine researchers shows that many U.S. citizens who call the U.S. territories home, are at a major healthcare disadvantage.

Led by Marcella Nunez-Smith, M.D., assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, the authors used data from Medicare to study all patients suffering from a heart attack who were admitted to 57 hospitals in the U.S. territories. They compared these to heart attack patients admitted to 4,799 hospitals in the mainland between July 2005 and June 2008. They found that the risk of death within 30 days after a heart attack was substantially higher for patients in all of the U.S. territories.

"We were shocked by these findings," said Nunez-Smith. "These are serious and substantial differences and translate into increased lives lost in the U.S. territories."

Nunez-Smith and her colleagues sought explanations for these findings by exploring whether patients overall just got sicker in the U.S. territories, but found the answer was "no."

"This work does put the spotlight on the need for increased resources in the U.S. territories to improve the quality of care," said Nunez-Smith. "One potential policy area for follow-up would be Medicare reimbursement rates. Hospitals in the U.S. territories have the lowest reimbursement rates of anywhere in the nation. We plan to do follow-up work with hospitals in the U.S. territories and policymakers to identify opportunities to improve health outcomes for people who live, work and play in the U.S territories."

Other Yale authors on the study include Elizabeth H. Bradley, Jeph Herrin, Calie Santana, M.D., Leslie A. Curry, Sharon-Lise T. Normand and Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D.

Nunez-Smith's work was partially funded by the Yale Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) grant from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health.

18 August 2011

Hospitals in United States Dependencies Deficient


Study: Hospitals in PR, territories lag

By : Kevin Mead 
Caribbean Business

Many U.S. citizens who call the U.S. territories home are at a major healthcare disadvantage compared to their counterparts in the 50 states, a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers shows.

Certain groups of patients treated at hospitals in U.S. territories have poorer outcomes and higher death rates than those treated at hospitals in U.S. states, according to the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Led by Dr. Marcella Nuñez-Smith, assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, researchers examined data on 57 territorial hospitals and 4,799 stateside hospitals that discharged at least one Medicare fee-for-service adult patient with heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia who were treated between July 2005 and June 2008.

The territorial hospitals had worse performance in treating all three conditions and had higher death rates. Compared to stateside hospitals, territorial hospitals had about two additional deaths for every 100 heart attack patients, one additional death for every 100 heart failure patients, and three additional deaths for every 100 pneumonia patients.

Hospitals in Puerto Rico performed similarly to other territories on most core processes measured.

Among the findings, there is a 17 percent greater risk of dying after a heart attack if you are treated in a hospital located in a U.S. territory— such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands — rather than in a hospital in the mainland United States.

The authors used data from Medicare to study all patients suffering from a heart attack who were admitted to 57 hospitals in the U.S. territories. They compared these to heart attack patients admitted to 4,799 hospitals in the mainland between July 2005 and June 2008. They found that the risk of death within 30 days after a heart attack was substantially higher for patients in all of the U.S. territories.

“We were shocked by these findings,” said Nuñez-Smith. “These are serious and substantial differences and translate into increased lives lost in the U.S. territories.”

Nuñez-Smith and her colleagues sought explanations for these findings by exploring whether patients overall just got sicker in the U.S. territories, but found that was not the case.

“Studies about hospital quality of care in the U.S. typically exclude hospitals in the U.S. territories or combine them with other U.S. regional areas, masking potential differences between quality of care between the territories and states,” she said.

“This work does put the spotlight on the need for increased resources in the U.S. territories to improve the quality of care,” said Nuñez-Smith. Despite the national effort to address health care disparities through increased public reporting and standardizing hospital performance, hospitals in the U.S. territories have been largely neglected.”

One potential policy area for follow-up would be Medicare reimbursement rates. Hospitals in the U.S. territories have the lowest reimbursement rates of anywhere in the nation.

“We plan to do follow-up work with hospitals in the U.S. territories and policymakers to identify opportunities to improve health outcomes for people who live, work and play in the U.S territories,” Nuñez-Smith said.

17 August 2011

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque Assumes Office

Press release 315/2011

(16 August 2011)

Secretary-General LaRocque pledges to fuel hope in regional integration

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Under “no illusions” about the task ahead of him, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, new Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Monday morning assumed office, pledging to fuel hope, encouraging the entire Community to journey with him, and underlining the need for the improvement of efficiency and effectiveness of the CARICOM Secretariat.

Secretary-General LaRocque took over the mantle of leadership with a “mix of excitement and awe given the challenges of the moment”, and with a charge by the Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, to be bold, creative, visionary, and provide astute supervision for the work of the Community.

Clad in slate grey suit, crisp white shirt and blue tie, Ambassador LaRocque began his tenure as Secretary-General with a symbolic event at the CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters at Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, which was linked via videoconferencing with the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM and Permanent Representatives of Member States to the United Nations in New York; Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite, Deputy Secretary-General and staff members in Barbados; and other staff members of CARICOM in Jamaica. The audience in Georgetown included Ambassador Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations and other Members of Staff of the Secretariat Headquarters, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, Ambassador of Suriname to CARICOM and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Guyana, the Honourable Sir Shridath Ramphal, OCC, and representatives of the media.

In his remarks Secretary-General LaRocque said that since his selection on 21 July 20211, he had received numerous messages of congratulations as well as opinions on the progress of regional integration and issues affecting the populace. While acknowledging that there was a measure of cynicism in some cases, a common thread in almost all of the messages and encounters was “a commitment and belief in our integration movement, as well as hope for change. “

“This in itself has been a most sobering but encouraging experience. It is that hope which, as Secretary-General, I will strive to fuel,” he told his audience.

Rallying the Community to the cause of integration, the Secretary-General also signaled that he intended to prioritise public education and communication to ensure the people of the Region were more informed of the benefits that could be derived from integration.

With regard to the implementation of decisions taken at the regional level, into which the CARICOM Chairman urged the new Secretary-General to inject some momentum, Ambassador LaRocque said it would be his duty to create the dialogue that would seek to find solutions to constraints which were inhibiting the advancement of integration in a timely manner. He said this against the background of acknowledgement of technical and political constraints that could not be easily ignored or overcome.

“We ought not to take a purely technical or theoretical approach to integration, or think that the solution lies simply with `political will’. We must consider the politics of integration; and as one politician said to me that `all politics is national’, the politics of integration must be put squarely on the national agenda,” he said.

As he saluted staff members of the CARICOM Secretariat “who have displayed an unwavering commitment to improving our Community”, the Secretary-General called for the improvement of efficiency and effectiveness, and the delivery of mandates with the primary goal of positively impacting the lives of the people of the Community.

But he cautioned that a critical element in going forward had to be a clear understanding that under the current conditions, “the Secretariat can no longer be all things to all persons if we are to be more effective. We must be focused and adequately resourced, if we are to play the role envisaged by our Heads of Government.

Referred to the ongoing review of the CARICOM Secretariat and the mandated review of the regional institutions, the Secretary-General said that the architecture and governance of out integration arrangements had to be reformed if the Secretariat were to more effective and accountable in the discharge of duties and functions.

It could not be business as usual, he said, referring to the general view that all things CARICOM were the purview of the CARICOM Secretariat.

“This is not necessarily the case; but if it is determined that this is how it should be, then the requisite reforms must be undertaken. There cannot be responsibility without authority,” he pointed out.

His message to members of the media, as a key stakeholder in integration, was that they use their communication skills to strengthen and build confidence amongst the people of the Region.

Following toasts to his good health, Secretary-General LaRocque later mingled with staff members and special guests before paying courtesy calls on the Honourable Samuel Hinds, Acting President of the Republic of Guyana, and Honourable Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guyana.

15 August 2011

"The Illusion of Inclusion" - US Virgin Islands legislation proposes symbolic vote for US president


Territory's Supervisor of Elections Opposes bill calling it "costly and confusing."

Bill Would Put Presidential Candidates to Symbolic Vote

By Bill Kossler — August 13, 2011

Although U.S. Virgin Islands residents do not have a vote in U.S presidential elections, a bill sponsored by Sens. Louis Hill, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen and Sammuel Sanes would put presidential tickets on V.I. ballots starting in 2012 should it become law.

Supervisor of Elections John Abramson, appearing before the Senate for the first time since being reappointed earlier this week to a third eight-year term, testified against the bill. "While I believe the intent of the proposed legislation is noble, it is my strong feeling that implementation of this legislation would be costly and create confusion among electors," Abramson said.

A qualifying system would have to be established, to determine what candidates are allowed on the ballot, he said. There are as many as a dozen candidates who make it on the ballots of one or more states, and it would add to the cost of elections to have to determine which party's candidates meet local criteria, put them onto the ballot and tally their results, he said.

Asked if the ballot could be restricted to just the Democratic and Republican parties, Abramson said the Legislature may be able to do that, but "that would be unfair to other parties," such as the Green party or Libertarians. Later, when asked if just having presidential candidates on primary ballots would eliminate the concern over large numbers of presidential candidates, Abramson said that approach might be feasible.

Hill, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the bill first occurred to several of the senators when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008. "I and others were of the opinion it would have felt good to cast a vote for the first African-American president, even if it didn't really count," Hill said.

Herb Schoenbohm of the V.I. Republican Party and Carol M. Burke of the V.I. Democratic Party both testified strongly in support of the bill, arguing it was an important symbolic act.

The bill was held in committee.


Turks & Caicos Cultural Hero Joins the Ancestors

Loss of an icon, Cultural hero and champion for young people

Wesley Williams, dearly known to many as ‘Tanka’ or ‘Coach’, was iconic across the TCI and Bahamas. A mentor and a teacher of all sorts, he died in Inagua, Bahamas, on Sunday of heart complications at the age of 50.
In 2007 he received special recognition as the Weekly News’ People’s Choice Person of the Year, but those who knew this great man can surely say that he was a man for all seasons.Best known for his association with Junkanoo, Tanka was a breathing symbol of national as well as cultural pride.
In an interview with a Weekly News journalist he once said: “It’s very important to keep your own culture rather than just absorb others. If we don’t protect it, it will die.” Those words are now alive more than ever in the hearts of those such as the ‘Predators’ Junkanoo group who helped him keep his dream alive.When he spoke, he commanded respect not by rough or abusive language but by words that allowed the listener to see that he was a learned man that never spoke anything he did not believe.
A man whose countless experiences in life allowed him to view a situation from different angles, tear it apart and re-construct it so that it no longer appeared to be the same thing.“Coach Tanka taught me more than basketball, he taught me some of the most important fundamentals in life and I thank him for that,” said Guillaume Lange, a member of the BWIC Spartans where Tanka served as a PE teacher.
Despite his involvement with basketball teams, Tanka was a die-hard softball advocate. Captain of the ‘Lil Giants’ softball team, Daniela Carroll, said on behalf of her team mates: “We express our deepest sympathy to our coach Tanka's family on such a big loss. Coach was more than a coach; he was a mentor, a teacher and most of all a role model. “He will be missed by the entire team and school at large. We will continue to, in his words, to close our eyes and examine what we see.“‘No excuses! Stay focused! You never know what you had until it’s no longer there!’
Tanka's legacy will live on forever. He had a family outside his own, a sports family and a mentoring family. “He will truly be missed,” comments Devonte Smith on the Facebook account dedicated to the legend’s memory.President of the Turks and Caicos Softball Association, Godfrey Been, extended his deepest condolences to the family.“He was a real sportsman and he had a unique style of coaching. “He coached in a no nonsense method and got across the message that you were there to win. “We had our differences but we had immense respect for one another. Tanka helped grow softball in the Islands and he will always be remembered.”
Mr Been spoke of a softball tournament that will be held on July 4 each year in honour of the late Tanka. “I’m going to ensure that this tournament goes on as long as I live,” said Mr Been. Don Porter, of the International Softball Association, also offered condolences to the family for their loss. Tanka’s accomplishments range from being a teacher, a coach, a mentor to a representative of the people, he said.A kindred spirit who definitely etched his mark in the Islands and in the hearts of the people who knew him.He is indeed irreplaceable and will forever remain an example of how to stand up for what you believe in and how to be as unique as possible in anything you set out to do.

11 August 2011

Guam, N. Marianas & American Samoa Seek Observer Status in Pacific Forum


WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International) – American Samoa has received approval from the U.S. State Department to seek observer status in the Pacific Islands Forum.

Governor Togiola Tulafono says U.S. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton informed him this week that the territory is cleared to apply for observer status in the Forum. The governor raised the issue of Forum membership for American Samoa when Secretary Clinton stopped over in the territory November (2010).

Governor Togiola says a joint application for American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas to be observer members will be presented at the next Forum leaders meeting in New Zealand next month.

09 August 2011

Corruption or Colonialism? The Turks & Caicos Political Crisis


Ansel Loya

United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), overseers of the British Overseas Territories, finalized its scheme to bring a new constitution to Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The order in parliament was made on 20 July, finalising the constitution to be activated at a date not yet released. The new constitution was drafted by “constitution experts” from the UK government.

A leading point of contention persist with the Turks and Caicos people that the latest constitution was designed, made and ratified by the UK with only suggestions from unelected local delegates from the Turks and Caicos. It was not put to a vote or referendum by the TCI population.

Preceding the constitution, and even today, are overwhelming accusations of corruption against the former TCI government. In August 2009, the UK took direct rule of Turks and Caicos based on accusations of corruption. The corruption accusations against the previous administration could fill volumes of treatises. However, surprisingly insufficient are any charges brought upon those accused. With talk and accusations of corruption used so prevalently in TCI, particularly by the FCO, one would expect to see the perpetrators behind bars ages ago. Consider that the UK has withheld democracy and withheld elections from the citizens of TCI, and in the interim a new constitution has been passed without their vote. With the power that the UK has taken from TCI citizens, coming between the citizens and democracy, why are the perpetrators not in jail? An on going two year UK corruption investigation continues, but should not that have been conducted prior to taking democracy and withholding elections from the TCI people?

The UK designed a misconception in TCI that there was no mechanism in place to correct corruption prior to UK direct rule. The UK made it its duty to install new mechanisms to correct the corruption, hence the new TCI 2011 Constitution. In truth, the UK had only to rely on the 2006 Constitution to identify mechanisms in place to correct government corruption in TCI. The 2006 Constitution, like the 2011 Constitution, grants the UK governor the authority to intervene in such an instance. In the case of TCI, the UK governors made no complaints of corruption though were fully engaged in local government.

Absent in the TCI 2011 Constitution is the will of the people for which it serves. In particular, the UK has added an entire provision in the 2011 Constitution bestowing citizenship with voting rights to foreign residents in TCI. The foreign residents, who hold citizenship in their own country as well, will outnumber the TCI people. UK support will be bolstered by the new citizens and the numbers of the new citizens’ vote will obstruct the will of the TCI people. This is a lose/lose proposition for the TCI people.

This same model of UK intervention is foreshadowed in Cayman Islands. Premier McKeeva Bush has admonishing the UK to refrain from interfering in Cayman government as there are righting mechanisms in place to deal with government failures (if any) and elections are around the corner. Westminster’s government model of formality does not work with the island culture, said McKeeva Bush. Nor should the citizens suffer the loss of democratic rights resulting from heavy-handed political corruption accusations which has been layed against McKeeva Bush pending any proof.

Like in TCI, Cayman has been overwhelmed by Westminster’s resourcefulness in procuring competitive media to be the voice of the people in place of proper democratic mediation. Discouraging the citizens from communicating their political choices are armies of political dissenters permeating the discussions in favor of UK policy and against the local government. In the interim, UK intervention is planned, thwarting the citizens’ democratic choices, as the UK conveys its “overwhelming support,” support of the citizens as reflected by public complaints against the local government.

Currently in TCI, the UK continues to encourage the people to act upon or discuss the 2011 Constitution, purportedly in order to evidence that they had input in it. A new UK governor is scheduled to arrive this month to enforce the new 2011 Constitution. The people continue to be under pressure and under-represented, disenfranchised. Without a democratic vote, we may never know the true will of the TCI people.

Interestingly, the UK is currently rewriting its 1999 White Paper which promises autonomy to its oversees territories.

08 August 2011

Guam Governor Supports Visa Waiver Program for visitors to Guam & N. Marianas


Testimony of Eddie Baza Calvo 
on the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (H.R. 1466)

Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife & Insular Areas

U.S. House of Representatives

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to testify. For the record, I am Eddie Baza Calvo. I am the Governor of Guam. This is my written testimony on the implementation of Public Law 110-229, regarding the Guam/CNMI Visa Waiver program. I beg your indulgence as I explain the thinking of Guam’s new administration below.

As the new governor of Guam, in my first opportunity to testify before Congress, I want to be certain that the Members of the House are aware of the reasons it is critical for the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program be implemented and that Chinese and Russian nationals be allowed to travel to Guam and the CNMI, as originally intended by Congress.

I have a simple and unique message for Congress today. Unlike previous testimonies you may have heard in years past, I am not here to ask for subsidies. Guam is going through a unique transformation that, if done correctly, will result in unprecedented economic self-sufficiency in the long term.

Today we are far from that self-sufficiency. This fiscal year Guam will receive $369 million in federal grants and matching grants. These grants fund several federal and local programs, including our university land grants, the National Guard, public assistance, housing for the less fortunate, education programs, etc. These are the same grants the other States and territories seek and for which they compete. It costs the federal government far less to fund these programs in Guam because of our small population. For many of these programs, Guam does not receive the same relative share that other American communities do.

As a new governor, I hesitate to have the government of Guam rely so heavily on these grants to sustain local operations. We are taking steps to fix our financial house over the long term, but unfortunately, this funding has become critical to services. These grants have become increasingly important to Guam over the past 20 years. The year 1991 is an important year in Guam memory. That was the last time the government of Guam was able to pay tax refunds on time. We currently owe approximately $280 million in tax refunds, going as far back as Calendar Year 2005. There are several reasons why this has occurred, including natural disasters such as super typhoons, which have wrecked havoc on our island, and global events beyond our control, such as SARS, H1N1, and two Gulf wars, which have wrecked havoc on our main economic industry, Asian-based tourism. While our people are resilient and have rebounded and rebuilt, our government finances were not as resilient. In addition, federal court orders in the hundreds of millions have placed a great burden on the backs of our taxpayers. This government had to borrow to finance some of these orders. The annual debt service on the bonds to pay these court orders has significantly eroded our revenue base. The Earned Income Tax Credit, which we are obligated to pay under the mirror IRC tax code system we have, and which the federal government reimburses to the state governments, is not reimbursed to Guam. This is a drain on our General Fund of between $32 to $36 million annually.

Because of declining revenues, the result of Japan’s financial downturn, the decline in (U.S.) military spending, and federal court-mandated new programs, imposed fines and application of EITC, the money that should be set aside for tax refunds continues to be used to pay for essential government services. All this, along with the growth of freely associated states of the Micronesia (FAS) migration in ever-increasing numbers, has created a structural imbalance in our General Fund. And while our community has been growing, along with a greater demand for public services, collections have not kept pace with this growth. The cumulative deficit that has grown over the years now is $336 million, according to our FY 2010 audit report.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, our deficit is 51 percent of our current year's adopted revenues. It is unmanageable. It rides as a burden on the backs of taxpayers awaiting their refunds. I’m not here to ask you to solve our problems for us. We are working to do that on our own. I directed my Cabinet to begin personnel evaluations for performance and I have instituted a 10 percent cut in spending. An island-wide reassessment of property values currently is underway to increase revenues. Revenue agents also are going after non-filers and non-payers. I am not asking for a federal bailout. What I am asking is for the federal government to make good on its own mandates, with the same fervor and sense of urgency as it has imposed upon our government.

The year 1991 is the sixth year following the U.S. government’s compact, or treaty, with the freely associated states of Micronesia. In 1985, these new countries entered into an agreement with the U.S. The U.S. government said the people of these former U.S. administered territories could migrate freely into the United States. Noting the dismal conditions of these countries’ economies and education systems, the U.S. promised federal aid to them. Rightly so, our country wanted to leave a legacy of progress in former territories it liberated and held in trust. The U.S. government agreed to absorb and pay for the impact of their migration to the States and territories of the U.S.

It’s been 26 years since then. The promise the U.S. made to the citizens of the FAS has resulted in meager improvements to their economies and school systems. As a result, the bulk of the FAS citizens, tens of thousands of them, have migrated to the closest U.S. port of entry: Guam. Our island absorbs well over half the migratory impact of the treaty the U.S. government entered with the FAS. Resultingly, Guam’s unemployment rate now is 13.3 percent. The true financial impact of this migration has cost the government of Guam nearly $1 billion since the Compacts were signed. Yet, Guam has only received $xxx since the Compacts. To put this in perspective, our General Fund generates about a half a billion dollars annually. Guam has found itself the casualty of another unfunded federal mandate.

I understand, however, that the U.S. government is itself in a bad economic state and will probably never fully reimburse Guam for the impacts of the Compacts. But I want to put into perspective how this federal mandate has contributed to, and may even be said to have caused, our deficit and the structural imbalance of the General Fund. We have been able to quantify most of what it costs to pay for government services directly used by citizens of the FAS annually. The figure is $113 million a year, for which we have never been reimbursed more than $14.5 million. That is about $100 million, or one-fifth of our local budget going to provide unreimbursed social services to FAS migrants. The rate of usage in each service category is alarming. I attached a breakdown, but here are some highlights:

Program                                      % of Participants Who Are FAS Citizens in Each Program

Medically Indigent Program                                                               67 %

Alternative School for At-Risk Youth                                                42 %

Public Housing Vouchers                                                                  32%

Youth Detention and Rehabilitation                                                    36%

Prisons                                                                                             25 %

Public Schools                                                                                  19%

Emergency Shelters                                                                          48%


Three years worth of this impact outpaces the size of our General Fund deficit. If you consider the direct costs the government of Guam incurs because of this federal mandate, you can see that the appropriations needed to meet the demand for services will always outpace the revenues we collect. This federal mandate, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, is driving up the cost of government services in Guam; costing us approximately $100 million annually.

We are told that we need to understand the federal government’s financial situation. We are told we must take into consideration the federal bureaucracy’s hardships and ability to pay. That is reasonable. What is most unreasonable is the hardship unfunded federal mandates, such as the FAS Compacts and EITC, place on our island people, forcing us to withhold tax refunds as our government continues to use their monies to subsidize the cost of providing government services to our residents as a result of the Compacts. Adding insult to injury, while the federal government sees no need to reimburse us beyond its ability, some would say its willingness, to pay us, it imposes on us additional mandates, orders, receiverships and fees without any regard for our ability to pay and sustain services for our residents. Here is a list of these orders and fines:

Consent Decree and receivership filed by the U.S. EPA                    $202,425,000

Court order to pay the federally - unfunded EITC                             $72,845,303

Stipulated Order filed by the U.S. EPA                                             $118,825,000

Permanent Injunction and receivership
filed by the U.S. Department of Justice                                             $15,950,000

Consent Decree filed by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons                          $9,636,593


The government of Guam has repeatedly asked the federal court and the federal agencies pursuing these fines and orders to consider the progress we were making in meeting the demands of the federal mandates. We have repeatedly asked for consideration on the rigid timelines imposed to provide the local cash to fund our compliance initiatives. We were told such considerations were not possible. It is a tragic irony that the federal government can withhold from us just reimbursement for its federal mandates because of its cash situation, despite the overwhelming impact of its failure to meet its own mandates, yet give us no consideration of the effect that its failure to reimburse us has on our ability to pay its other mandates.

On top of this, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now wants the government of Guam to install secondary wastewater treatment facilities at the cost of $400 million. The U.S. EPA does not care how this will impact our people; nor has it considered other less expensive and environmentally sensitive technological solutions for wastewater treatment.

How is it right that we are made to pay for more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in federal mandates when the federal government still owes us a billion dollars in reimbursements for its obligation to us?

The federal government is strangling us with mandates it expects our cash-strapped government to meet upon unreasonable timelines and demands. There has been no consideration for our ability to sustain our financial house while meeting these orders and paying for what is supposed to be the federal government’s bill. These extraordinary demands not only drain our financial resources, they rob us of the attention and focus we need to pay to our own local programs and initiatives to combat poverty and increase wealth among Guamanians. Make no mistake about it; we are good American citizens who are doing our part to deal with these problems ourselves. We have a full throttle economic and financial agenda. The only thing getting in our way is the federal government’s burdensome bureaucracy, mandates, rules and regulations.

Despite these challenges, we are moving forward with viable economic initiatives to improve the quality of life for Guamanians and increase our presence in the Asia Pacific Rim.

My administration is developing a long-term economic strategic plan, which leverages the military buildup investment with our strategic location between Asia and the mainland United States. I am bringing the community together to use available information and academic methodologies and best practices to forecast Guam’s economy and its community of the future. We will project our needs, identify budding industries, shore up our workforce goals and create a community model supported by the infrastructure, workforce and regulatory environment fit to meet these projections. We will align curriculum in our schools, colleges and university to meet these goals, creating certainty in our future in much the same way several Asian nations went from lands of scarce natural resources to the economic tigers they are today.

As this planning and implementation process occurs, we have already launched an affordable housing initiative to spark construction and generate interest in mortgages for first-time homeowners. Our goal is to build 3,000 affordable homes over the next five years. We launched the initiative two weeks ago. Already, 188 homes are slated for development in the near future.

The much-anticipated and recently much-debated military buildup is causing increased interest in the island. Our economic development agency, along with our Chamber of Commerce, has been organizing trade missions to Guam from Taiwan, Korea, China, the Philippines and Japan. We want Asian capital to flow into our economy. I will be leading trade missions to these countries later this year to court investors personally.

The University of Guam is aggressively networking to build research and development parks as incubators of new business and new industry. More so than ever before, the University is taking a commanding role in community development. It has become a regional leader in economic initiatives. More importantly, it has begun a long-overdue dialogue on sustainability in the islands. One of the initiatives this is leading to is the creation of the University of Guam School of Engineering. These initiatives will lead to solutions to which both Micronesia and the U.S. government have long aspired.

Stagnation and an increasingly competitive field of nearby emerging destinations have impacted tourism, our number one industry. The Japanese disasters of March 2011 have also had their most recent effect on our Asian-based tourism industry. We are adapting and coping as best we can, but there is only so much we can do.

My message is this: We can make it on our own if the federal government makes good on its own mandates, and releases us from restrictions that do not make sense for our very unique economy and for the United States. We believe this is an especially appropriate message to send to you as Congress and President Obama try desperately to curb federal spending and reduce the federal deficit. But that’s just one narrow way of seeing things.

Guam and the CNMI are geopolitically positioned in a way no other U.S. community is. Our location, tied with our reputation in Asia and the Pacific of being the strongest, closest, most stable and hospitable American community in that part of the world presents the United States with an opportunity to increase American clout militarily, economically and diplomatically with the fastest growing economies in the world. Put simply, we are in a political and geographic position to make our country shine. Not only are we proud to be in this position, we are excited to take a lead role. This is, after all, in the spirit of the bipartisan call from Congress for American communities to exhibit leadership in gaining financial independence and economic development. I offer to you solutions to make this happen:

Release Travel Visa Restrictions on Chinese and Russian Outbound Visitors
to Guam and the CNMI Only

The United States currently does not have a visa waiver program with China and Russia. Two of the main reasons for this are concerns for national security and of Chinese and Russian nationals violating their visa conditions and overstaying in the U.S. These issues are of obvious significant concern for the U.S. I reiterate, though, what Congress already understood when it passed the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008.

Guam is not part of the contiguous United States. We have 212 square miles of land surrounded by the deep blue Pacific. It is not difficult to find people in our island, but it is hard to get past customs and immigration officers at our airport. Even Congress supports this in its own findings. When Congress established the Guam VWP in 1987 as an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Congress emphasized the inherent protections afforded the United States’ welfare, safety and security by Guam’s geographical isolation. Congress determined that:

The unique conditions prevailing on Guam and its isolated location provide sufficient safeguards for the welfare, safety and security of the United States to justify a broad application of the visa waiver system. Guam's isolation as an island in the Pacific Ocean easily allows for the restriction of visa waiver recipients to the Territory thereby preventing them from traveling onward to Hawaii and the mainland. Guam's small area and its relatively small population ensure that any non-immigrants who overstay the visa waiver period . . . can be quickly located and removed. . . . Given the inherent protections which Guam offers the welfare, safety and security of the United States the visa waiver system should be liberally applied to a broad range of countries. . . . It is intended that the visa waiver program should initially be given wide application. If threats to the welfare, safety or security of the United States develop those threats should be dealt with on a country by country basis.1

Although China and Russia are currently excluded from the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, because of our remote location allowing Chinese and Russian outbound tourists to vacation in Guam and the CNMI should not cause such alarm to our national and homeland security agencies.

Guam has long sought visa waiver programs with China and Russia. It makes sense when you consider what this can do for our island economy and for the investment of Chinese and Russian capital into the U.S. economy. Our local considerations are obvious. Guam has relied upon Japanese outbound tourists since the 1960s to fuel tourism, our number-one industry. It is this strong economic alliance we’ve built with the Japanese that built the Guam economy. That transformation from the rubbles of World War II bombardments and the devastation of a Category 5 storm is nothing short of miraculous.

Unfortunately, when the Japanese economy tanks, Guam feels it. Over the last decade, we’ve felt its stagnation. Tourists are not staying as long as they used to. They’re not spending as much as they did before. On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by a major earthquake, followed by a devastating tsunami and damage to a nuclear power plant. Guam is still feeling the economic effects of the Japan triple disaster. Tourism numbers from Japan have declined over 20 percent. We’ve been fortunate to increase our share of the Korean market and to attract further interest from Taiwan, the Philippines and Australia, but these other countries represent only a small portion of our tourism base. While we have struggled to reinvent our market and to diversify into markets with existing visa waiver programs, we find ourselves competing with several other Asian destinations that have recently emerged. They are all attracting the 55 million outbound Chinese and the 13 million Russian tourists. Guam is anxious to have its share of these markets and we have the infrastructure to support it. Access to Chinese and Russian visitors has the potential of increasing our gross domestic product by the billions and creating thousands of jobs. But Guam isn’t the only body politic that stands to gain from these proposed visa waiver programs.

In fact, the State Department has collaborated with the National Governors Association to bring provincial governors from China to the NGA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, later this month, and is also scheduling a state visit by U.S. governors to China for the Fall of 2011. President Obama in 2008 also issued a National Export Initiative designed at doubling U.S. exports, which recognizes tourism as an export component.

Part of the United States’ National Export Initiative is to reduce the huge trade deficit with China. Guam can help facilitate that. The 55 million Chinese outbound visitors are exporting Chinese capital, yet the easiest markets accepting them are not U.S. markets. They are other Chinese cities and Asian destinations that are fast depleting opportunities for the U.S.

Allowing China to participate in the visa waiver program for Guam and the CNMI, will bring billions of dollars in Chinese currency to the U.S. The capital will flow into U.S. banks on Guam, and then be invested into the imports we receive from the U.S. mainland. This program can be part of a winning strategy to meet the objectives of the National Export Initiative and begin reclaiming economic strength in Asia.

We need Congress’s help in affirming China and Russia’s participation in the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.

Provide Funding Certainty to the Defense Department for the Military Buildup on Guam

A growing pillar in our economy is Defense-related activity, spurred by Defense spending on Guam. The pending military buildup caused a mini-boom of development when plans were announced a few years ago. Unfortunately, uncertainty and anxiety about the buildup has been increasing because of Defense cuts over the past year by Congress.

To date, little has been said or released about the United States’ funding commitment to the Global Realignment of the Armed Forces initiative affecting Guam and Okinawa-based forces. The Japanese government has made similar commitments and has deposited vast sums of money to the U.S. Treasury. The uncertainty is on the part of the U.S. government, which lately has seemed reluctant to honor the bilateral agreements effectuated by the State Department.

We do recognize Congress is in a bind because the cost of the buildup is still unknown. However, even the Senate recognizes there is a buildup happening and there are costs. At this point, reducing those costs without any notice of how the buildup will proceed and what investments will be made each year sends mixed signals and causes confusion. There is a need for federal officials to communicate more effectively with Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and the government of Guam on buildup plans and the outlay of spending over the next decade.

The anxiety on the part of our local government, our private sector and prospective investors has been exacerbated by recent cuts to Defense spending in Guam. The Senate Armed Services Committee recently removed an appropriation for improvements to Andersen Air Force Base, and a $33 million appropriation to help mitigate the impacts of a firing range and other buildup activities. This, while just a fraction of the total cost, is significant to us because it was part of a very much criticized negotiation that finally led to the signing of the Programmatic Agreement over the disposition of historic artifacts and other such finds during the proposed buildup.

These so-called ‘signals’ from Congress have triggered a standstill on development and business activity related to the buildup. Investors now are taking a ‘wait and see’ stance with Asian capital that they would have already invested into the U.S. via Guam. It is critical to our development that Congress makes good on the United States’ promises and provide assurances that it will fund this buildup.

Inclusion in the Korea Free Trade Agreement and All Current and Future Agreements

The sad part about Guam’s enduring relationship with the United States is it seems the U.S. government picks and chooses when to apply mandates and benefits to our territory. Sometimes Guam is included as a U.S. territory, many other times we are treated as an international community not eligible for the same benefits and protections the rest of the country receives. This is the case with the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

The President’s Office of the United States Trade Representative says, “If approved, the Agreement would be the United States' most commercially significant free trade agreement in more than 16 years.

“The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the reduction of Korean tariffs and tariff-rate quotas on goods alone would add $10 billion to $12 billion to annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product and around $10 billion to annual merchandise exports to Korea.” It goes on to state:

“In addition to strengthening our economic partnership, the KORUS FTA would help to solidify the two countries' long-standing geostrategic alliance.

As the first U.S. FTA with a North Asian partner, the KORUS FTA could be a model for trade agreements for the rest of the region, and underscore the U.S. commitment to, and engagement in, the Asia-Pacific region.”

Guam is, without a doubt, at the center of U.S. interests in this Asia-Pacific region. Why, then, have we been excluded from the agreement? We ask Congress to push for Guam’s inclusion in the agreement.

Guam can play a pivotal role as the United States expands its interests in our region. We are important for American interests in Asia. We are important for Asian interests in America. At the heart of this strategic geopolitical value are many factors all related to our location and our proud heritage as the westernmost frontier of the United States:

1. The major strategic importance of the military bases – present and future – on Guam, the “Tip of the spear”

2. The airline hubs connecting Asia with Micronesia

3. The frontline role we have in the potential for development in Micronesia

4. The international web of fiber optic cables based beneath the island

5. The transnational shipping routes that flow through our oceanic backyard

6. The international conventions and treaties on fisheries and fishing that is a multi-billion dollar industry in our waters

7. The academic research and consortiums of marine science based out of our university.

8. The opportunity to reduce the U.S. trade deficit and bring billions of Asian currency to America through Guam.

There is a clear connection between Asia and America. Guam is that bridge. We are the hosts to American interests in the Western Pacific. We set the stage for Asian entrance to U.S. markets. We can be leaders in an economic alliance between Asia and America. Give us the opportunities to make it on our own and we will help America to shine.

The American Dream is powerful. It is no wonder we are a nation of immigrants. People from across the globe saw from their borders the bright and shining promise that is the American Dream. In America, you can work hard and earn a living. It doesn’t matter whether your father is a king or your mother is a pauper, or whether you grew up poor or you didn’t think you had the right skin color or faith. You can own a home. You can be your own boss. You can compete against the best, and you can win. This dream is attracting people to our shores in much the same way. While we are a small island, we represent America’s heritage of warmth and hospitality to all those looking for freedom and opportunity. If you haven’t been to Guam, you may be surprised when you get there. People from all walks of life go about their business trying to make ends meet and build something great for their families. It is a microcosm of these contiguous United States, where freedom is celebrated and people take advantage of opportunity.

We are asking you for those opportunities so the American Dream can become a reality for your fellow Americans in Guam. In doing so, we can do our part in bringing the American Dream to more Americans.

We are pursuing a Guamanian Century of Prosperity at the dawn of an American Millennium of Leadership and Hope. Some have said the great American Century is over. They say that, like Greece and Rome, the Holy Roman Empire and Spain, America’s light above the world is destined to dim. I see the light of the world every morning on my porch as warm ocean winds blow upon the Star Spangled Banner and the Guam Flag that fly high above Government House. Freedom has no end, nor can time limit its virtue. No other country was built upon these ideals. It is a blessing from God to see the majesty of His creation illuminated by the dawn of a new day. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as an American living in a land that wakes to the first sunrise of this vast nation, I can tell you that the light of the world touches America first. Let us be leaders in this country’s future.

1/ 132 Cong. Rec. S4844 (Apr. 24, 1986); see also 132 Cong. Rec.H5274 (Aug. 1, 1986).