Senate Bill No. 8-34, SD5, HD1

August 26, 2009 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

August 19, 2009
Serial No. 09-473

The Honorable Senator Mlib Tmetuchl
President of the Senate
Eighth Olbiil Era Kelulau
P.O. Box 8
Koror, Palau PW 96940

Re:    Senate Bill No. 8-34, SD5, HD1

Dear Senate President Tmetuchl:

Pursuant to the authority vested in me under Article IX, Section 15 of the Constitution of the Republic of Palau, I am referring Senate Bill No. 8-34, SD5, HD1, back to the Eighth Olbiil Era Kelulau for further consideration with the recommendations for amendment set forth below.

Although I am referring this Bill back to the Olbiil Era Kelulau with several observations and recommendations for change, I want to start by saying that the most troublesome provision is Section 13, which authorizes and appropriates funds to pay for the program this Bill creates.  As I advised just last week in a letter to the Olbiil Era Kelulau referring back a different bill for further consideration, our local revenues are in a severe downward spiral and are projected to be in that condition for the foreseeable future.  Without cutting the budget of an existing government program the Republic does not have the luxury of funding additional programs, especially a program such as that created by this Bill, which to my mind is an unnecessary exercise at times such as this.

It is critical that the Olbiil Era Kelulau employ a cost-benefit analysis when considering new or even rejuvenated programs such as this.  In my opinion, the benefits of this program do not justify even the minimal expenditure of funds proposed by this Bill.  This program could and should be sponsored, organized, funded and conducted in-house by the Olbiil Era Kelulau without having to pass legislation or appropriate funds.  If the Olbiil Era Kelulau insists on formally legislating and funding this program, then the Olbiil Era Kelulau must either reduce its own budget by an equal amount or fund the program by reprogramming moneys otherwise appropriated to it.  This is my first suggestion for amendment.

Section 2 of the Bill states that the program will be under the administrative supervision of the Olbiil Era Kelulau, essentially buttressing my suggestion that this program and the Republic would be better served if this program were sponsored, organized and conducted in-house by the Olbiil Era Kelulau.  Notwithstanding, Sections 10 and 13 of this Bill require significant administrative support from the Executive Branch of the National government.

With all due respect, all of the ministries, including the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs, already are severely challenged in administrating and coordinating the programs and services that existing laws mandate they perform.  Their responsibilities will become even more difficult to perform as the decline in local revenues makes it necessary to delay or even cease the hiring of government employees, and possibly furlough or layoff government employees.  They do not need the additional strain of programs such as this.  Simply promulgating regulations will require the services of attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General, the use of an expensive and scarce resource that definitely can be better employed on other activities.

My suggestion for amendment here is to delete all references in this Bill to administrative support from the Executive Branch of Government.  If the Olbiil Era Kelulau is to have administrative supervision of this program, then the Olbiil Era Kelulau should utilize its own administrative staff, including its attorneys, all of whom I know to be qualified and capable of performing the administrative duties this program would require.

In addition to the foregoing, I have concerns over the following specific provisions, and I suggest that the Olbiil Era Kelulau amend them to address my concerns.

Section 4(b) of the Bill defines “youth” to include persons between the ages of 14 and 24 years of age.  This is too broad, too inclusive a definition.  Under our Constitution, a person can run for the Olbiil Era Kelulau at age 25.

Section 6 of the Bill permits the Governors of the states of Palau to appoint the participants to this program.  One of the comments I have received from my ministers regarding this Bill is that the previous incarnation of this program became politicized over the identity of the persons selected to participate and the manner of their selection.  Palau is already too politicized and I will not allow this or any other program to exacerbate the problem.

Section 8 of the Bill establishes a term of two years for the persons selected to participate.  This is too long a term.  If a large number of persons are interested in participating in this program, a two year term will detract from their ability to participate.  I suggest that the participation in this program be restricted to students enrolled in school at the high school level, whatever their age, and that the selection of the participants be left up to the discretion of the principals of the schools, perhaps only providing grade point guidelines.  I further suggest that this be a one day program held in conjunction with the observation of Youth Day, and that persons be allowed to participate only one time.

Frankly, as a matter of policy I am troubled by this Bill.  To my mind, this Bill debases and denigrates the role of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.  It implies that the elected members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau are so out of touch with the desires and aspirations of the youth of Palau that the Olbiil Era Kelulau needs a Youth Congress to propose measures to it for consideration.  I suggest that this is not the case; but if it is, that regular meetings with that segment of your member’s constituencies would educate them as to the desires and aspirations of the youth of Palau.

Next, to me this Bill promotes the idea that a career in politics is preferred and so superior to any other career that our youth need to be trained to be political leaders.  While public service as an elected official is an honorable and vital role, it should not be elevated over the equally important and vital roles that accountants, bookkeepers, businessmen, carpenters, cooks, doctors, engineers, masons, pastors, priests, secretaries, teachers, et cetera, play in our society.  There are only so many positions for elected leaders.  There are thousands of positions available for all the other meaningful and important jobs that are required for our society to function.  In my opinion, a good grounding and experience in one of those other roles is essential for a politician to have in order to fulfill his role as an elected official.  If a person has no other background than in politics, how then can that person make informed decisions and effectively serve the people who elected him?

While I think it is important that our youth be given an education in civics, I do not think that they need to be formally trained to be elected public officials.  All of the members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau are living proof that our culture is what develops the ability and instills the desire in our youth to serve our community.  I think that we, as leaders of Palau, need to emphasize and encourage our youth to pursue constructive and meaningful careers outside of politics.  The ability and desire to serve needs no prompting or preparation.  Palau has developed a vibrant democracy and our people will continue to participate in that democracy without the benefit of these sorts of programs.

Thank you for your continuing cooperation and courtesy.  I am willing to meet with you or any of your colleagues to discuss my foregoing concerns and to answer any questions there may be.

Until then, I remain

Sincerely yours,

Johnson Toribiong

August 19, 2009
Serial No. 09-474

The Honorable Delegate Noah Idechong
Speaker of the House of Delegates
Eighth Olbiil Era Kelulau
P.O. Box 8
Koror, Palau PW 96940

Re:    Senate Bill No. 8-34, SD5, HD1

Dear Speaker Idechong:

Pursuant to the authority vested in me under Article IX, Section 15 of the Constitution of the Republic of Palau, I am referring Senate Bill No. 8-34, SD5, HD1, back to the Eighth Olbiil Era Kelulau for further consideration with the recommendations for amendment set forth below.

Although I am referring this Bill back to the Olbiil Era Kelulau with several observations and recommendations for change, I want to start by saying that the most troublesome provision is Section 13, which authorizes and appropriates funds to pay for the program this Bill creates.  As I advised just last week in a letter to the Olbiil Era Kelulau referring back a different bill for further consideration, our local revenues are in a severe downward spiral and are projected to be in that condition for the foreseeable future.  Without cutting the budget of an existing government program the Republic does not have the luxury of funding additional programs, especially a program such as that created by this Bill, which to my mind is an unnecessary exercise at times such as this.

It is critical that the Olbiil Era Kelulau employ a cost-benefit analysis when considering new or even rejuvenated programs such as this.  In my opinion, the benefits of this program do not justify even the minimal expenditure of funds proposed by this Bill.  This program could and should be sponsored, organized, funded and conducted in-house by the Olbiil Era Kelulau without having to pass legislation or appropriate funds.  If the Olbiil Era Kelulau insists on formally legislating and funding this program, then the Olbiil Era Kelulau must either reduce its own budget by an equal amount or fund the program by reprogramming moneys otherwise appropriated to it.  This is my first suggestion for amendment.

Section 2 of the Bill states that the program will be under the administrative supervision of the Olbiil Era Kelulau, essentially buttressing my suggestion that this program and the Republic would be better served if this program were sponsored, organized and conducted in-house by the Olbiil Era Kelulau.  Notwithstanding, Sections 10 and 13 of this Bill require significant administrative support from the Executive Branch of the National government.
With all due respect, all of the ministries, including the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs, already are severely challenged in administrating and coordinating the programs and services that existing laws mandate they perform.  Their responsibilities will become even more difficult to perform as the decline in local revenues makes it necessary to delay or even cease the hiring of government employees, and possibly furlough or layoff government employees.  They do not need the additional strain of programs such as this.  Simply promulgating regulations will require the services of attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General, the use of an expensive and scarce resource that definitely can be better employed on other activities.

My suggestion for amendment here is to delete all references in this Bill to administrative support from the Executive Branch of Government.  If the Olbiil Era Kelulau is to have administrative supervision of this program, then the Olbiil Era Kelulau should utilize its own administrative staff, including its attorneys, all of whom I know to be qualified and capable of performing the administrative duties this program would require.

In addition to the foregoing, I have concerns over the following specific provisions, and I suggest that the Olbiil Era Kelulau amend them to address my concerns.

Section 4(b) of the Bill defines “youth” to include persons between the ages of 14 and 24 years of age.  This is too broad, too inclusive a definition.  Under our Constitution, a person can run for the Olbiil Era Kelulau at age 25.

Section 6 of the Bill permits the Governors of the states of Palau to appoint the participants to this program.  One of the comments I have received from my ministers regarding this Bill is that the previous incarnation of this program became politicized over the identity of the persons selected to participate and the manner of their selection.  Palau is already too politicized and I will not allow this or any other program to exacerbate the problem.

Section 8 of the Bill establishes a term of two years for the persons selected to participate.  This is too long a term.  If a large number of persons are interested in participating in this program, a two year term will detract from their ability to participate.  I suggest that the participation in this program be restricted to students enrolled in school at the high school level, whatever their age, and that the selection of the participants be left up to the discretion of the principals of the schools, perhaps only providing grade point guidelines.  I further suggest that this be a one day program held in conjunction with the observation of Youth Day, and that persons be allowed to participate only one time.

Frankly, as a matter of policy I am troubled by this Bill.  To my mind, this Bill debases and denigrates the role of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.  It implies that the elected members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau are so out of touch with the desires and aspirations of the youth of Palau that the Olbiil Era Kelulau needs a Youth Congress to propose measures to it for consideration.  I suggest that this is not the case; but if it is, that regular meetings with that segment of your member’s constituencies would educate them as to the desires and aspirations of the youth of Palau.

Next, to me this Bill promotes the idea that a career in politics is preferred and so superior to any other career that our youth need to be trained to be political leaders.  While public service as an elected official is an honorable and vital role, it should not be elevated over the equally important and vital roles that accountants, bookkeepers, businessmen, carpenters, cooks, doctors, engineers, masons, pastors, priests, secretaries, teachers, et cetera, play in our society.  There are only so many positions for elected leaders.  There are thousands of positions available for all the other meaningful and important jobs that are required for our society to function.  In my opinion, a good grounding and experience in one of those other roles is essential for a politician to have in order to fulfill his role as an elected official.  If a person has no other background than in politics, how then can that person make informed decisions and effectively serve the people who elected him?

While I think it is important that our youth be given an education in civics, I do not think that they need to be formally trained to be elected public officials.  All of the members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau are living proof that our culture is what develops the ability and instills the desire in our youth to serve our community.  I think that we, as leaders of Palau, need to emphasize and encourage our youth to pursue constructive and meaningful careers outside of politics.  The ability and desire to serve needs no prompting or preparation.  Palau has developed a vibrant democracy and our people will continue to participate in that democracy without the benefit of these sorts of programs.

Thank you for your continuing cooperation and courtesy.  I am willing to meet with you or any of your colleagues to discuss my foregoing concerns and to answer any questions there may be.

Until then, I remain

Sincerely yours,

Johnson Toribiong

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Entry filed under: Informational.

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