President David Kabua delivered a state of the nation address at Monday’s Nitijela opening ceremony, issuing a straightforward call for improvements in many areas of government operations.
As is customary with ceremonial openings that do not involve the drama of an election, the chamber gallery evidenced many empty seats, save for the church singing groups and the VIPs seated behind the members. The opening was broadcast live on V7AB radio and live streamed on NTA’s Facebook page, the latter attracting more watchers than were in the chamber.
Numerous members of Nitijela, from both government and opposition groupings, praised the President’s remarks during the session Tuesday, the first business day of the new session.
Among a list of key items the President targeted in his speech:
• Power and telecommunication services are essential to further developing the economy. The Marshalls Energy Company’s power plant and NTA’s services need urgent improvement.
• The Micronesian Games is only 18 months away. To get organizers focused, the President said he wanted a monthly briefing for Cabinet starting immediately on progress and needs for the Games.
• The need for a new hospital, additional doctors and nurses, and expanding speciality medical services offered at our hospitals.
• The government has been “homeless for a long time.” The land lease for the capital building needs to be sorted out and the capital building re-established, with the possibility of demolishing the present structure and building a new facility.
• The government intends to maintain the five-day per week school lunch program and will work to identify the funding needed to support it.
Kabua also highlighted several new developments, including:
• The imminent arrival of a new landing craft vessel for outer islands service.
• The government is looking at options for purchasing new and better airplanes for Air Marshall Islands.
• The Ministry of Natural Resources and Commerce is working with the Taiwan Technical Mission in Laura on the rollout of agriculture stations on Arno and Ailinglaplap this year.
• Plans to renew schools and dispensaries on the outer islands.
He called the reinstatement of Medicaid a huge development for Marshallese living in the US, and recognized the US Congress — in particular Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono — for taking this long-overdue action.
Kabua also thanked the US government for the second $5 million appropriation that brings to $10 million US funding being deposited to the RMI Compact Trust Fund. It is compensation for the US Congress eliminating tax and trade provisions from the original Compact.
Kabua said that in addition to this, the US government has agreed to increase the Supplemental Education Grant to the levels agreed in the Compact, which will provide additional funds for the Ministry of Education.