“As leaders of a small island nation, we will always be faced with unique island issues of vulnerability, such as lack of resources, distance from markets, high energy costs, and limited capacity. This is the reality of our situation and our planning process must take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself in order for us to remain on a sustainable growth path and achieve our development goals for the benefit of our people.
One of the primary sources of creative and innovative financing of development comes from Public Private Partnerships. Only through entering into such partnerships will we be able to finance investments in our major infrastructure such as airports, energy, seaports, and other basic infrastructure that define a modern society. We must not look at these opportunities as unsolicited intrusions by outside entities. Rather, we must see them for what they are. Partnerships, where both parties benefit from their long-term relationship. If we have the opportunity to build and operate a state of the art modern airport terminal or seaport through such a partnership, we must take advantage of the opportunity through world standard criteria. If we have the opportunity to replace high cost diesel fuel power generation with low cost solar power generation through such a partnership, we cannot reject the concept simply because there is a partner involved.
My fellow Palauans, these opportunities do not come around every day. We cannot reject them out of hand because we are not familiar with how they work. We need to learn how they work, seek outside expertise, where necessary, and make the right decision based upon the facts. The final criteria is: will our people and our economy be better off with or without this project. If an objective analysis indicates that the answer is yes, then our leadership must proceed accordingly.
Making use of many of these available partnerships, we have made great progress over the past decade. We recently finalized our Compact Agreement with the United States. We have greatly improved our primary and secondary roads. We are moving towards implementation of renewable energy that will lower power rates. Our tourism is poised for growth with a focus on quality rather than quantity. And our construction industry continues to expand to meet our development challenges. But while we applaud our success, we must remember that it is not all about the money. For example, with our new housing program, we now have the money. But in many instances, we don’t have the building sites, the roads, the electricity, the water or the sewer. Before we can find success, we must lay the proper foundation to achieve the results that we want. We must therefore work together creatively to lay these foundations.
Our leadership must recognize that, for the most part, we actually find ourselves in agreement 90 percent of the time. Unfortunately, it seems that we get bogged down with the remaining 10 percent on which we have differing views. Let us commit ourselves to focus on those matters upon which we find agreement and leave the 10 percent for later discussion. And when we get to the 10 percent, let us seek to find common ground upon which we can begin to build a consensus. If we take this approach, I believe that we will move our national agenda forward at a much more rapid pace for the benefit of all of our people.
In working together to build a stronger nation, we must always remember just who we are building this nation for – the People and our future generations.
I commit myself to working with all of Palau’s leadership to help provide all the information needed so that the best decision can be made. “
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