Nitijela’s first business day of the current session, August 7, saw members focus on the RMI’s proposed SOV digital currency, plan to host the Micronesian Games, and possible reduction in the 50 cent per pound copra price. Exchanges during the first question and answer session of the new session included:
• Wotho Senator David Kabua said President Hilda Heine made no mention of the RMI’s bitcoin plan in her speech at Monday’s opening. What’s the update on it? President Hilda Heine responded, saying the RMI’s plan is not a “bitcoin” but rather a “digital currency” known as the SOV. A report is under review and will be presented to Nitijela later in the week, she said. Namu Senator Tony Aiseia said he and other senators had warned the government earlier in the year not to go so fast on adopting legislation for the SOV. Health Minister Kalani Kaneko, a co-sponsor of the SOV legislation earlier this year, said the RMI’s partner in the venture, Israel-based Neema, is “working hard to address concerns raised by the US Treasury Department and the International Monetary Fund.” Finance Minister Brenson Wase added the final note on the matter: “We are not going to issue anything until we’ve addressed these issues.”
• Majuro Senator David Kramer questioned the ability of the RMI to host the Micronesian Games in 2022 based on a lack of sports facilities. He asked to see the government’s budget for hosting the Games. “I’m confident we’ll be ready,” said Education Minister Wilbur Heine. Use of funding from the ROC is under consideration to support development of facilities, he said, adding the government is also looking at other sources of support. “Every Marshallese has to take part” in the hosting of the Games, he said. Minister Kalani Kaneko said four years is enough time to prepare to host the Games. He also said Majuro has sports facilities that only need improvements.
• Senator Aiseia raised concerns over any plans to reduce the 50-cent per pound price for copra, observing that the President said the RMI had $200 million coming in from donors. “Why cut the price?” he asked. At the next session, President Hilda Heine said the government is taking its time to address the copra price issue. The President said the government has exhausted the subsidies devoted to maintaining the price at 50 cents per pound and is looking for ways to maintain the price established 18 months ago.
Read more about this in the August 17, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.