President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed on Wednesday an $85.9 million Fiscal Year 2018 spending budget.
“Overall, I am pleased to note that the budget you have passed will not only ensure the continuity of our ongoing governmental and social programs but also provides significant budgetary support to some of the most important policy initiatives of our Government,” Remengesau said in his transmittal letter to leaders of Congress after he signed the bill. [restrict]
Remengesau also lauded the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) for increase in support for non-public schools and the provision of funds for marine ambulance services under the Ministry of Health.
The law also contained amendments to the Social Security Program to provide for a permanent financing of the $50 increase to the monthly benefits of retirees.
The president said although the amendment raised concerns from the Palau Chamber of Commerce about its impact to businesses, the long term impact of the changes is more important.
“While this is expected to have some financial burden on the current employees and employers, it is believed that the long-term benefits are expected to far outweigh this burden. After all, the burden is going to be very minimal on low-income earners, especially those who make less than $24,000 per year,” Remengesau said in his letter.
The amendment said the high-income earners would absorb the increase.
The president however line item veto the proposed appropriation of $1,150,000 funding to support the Civil Service Pension Plan. He instead reduced the budget to $150,000 for the civil pension plan to undertake an actuarial study in collaboration with the OEK and the Executive Branch to determine viable options toward a more comprehensive reform that will ensure long term financial viability of the program.
Remengesau item reduced House of Delegates budget by $100,000.00.
He said that committing 100% of all projected funds for FY 2018 into the budget in addition to $4.4 million authorized for other budgetary needs, will put the government in a difficult position of effectively managing the funds when they become available.
“Although we are cautiously optimistic for stronger growth, I will also remind us that we have committed to encourage sound fiscal responsibilities and accountability by way of maintaining a balanced budget while making room for any unforeseen events such as typhoons, droughts or external threats in our region that could negatively impact our tourism and thus affects our revenue collections, “ he said.
The budget also provides for $1.6 million water and wastewater subsidy for the planned increase in rates this October. A PPUC subsidy for low income earners in the amount of $200,000 is also included in the budget.
An amount of $500,000 was also appropriated for a new correctional facility to be located outside of Koror.
During the signing of the budget bill, it was also announced that by January 2018, the Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee (PPEF) will take effect. (D. Carreon) [/restrict]