BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON
KOROR, Palau — President Surangel Whipps Jr. is making changes to the ministries in Palau and their responsibilities. This will take time, as legislation is needed to change the current makeup of the ministries.
On Feb. 17, the president signed a law changing the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Industries, moving the functions of the Bureau of Commerce to the new Ministry of Human Resources, Tourism & Economic Development.
The Ministry of Human Resources, Tourism & Economic Development will focus on employment and labor, according to the Whipps transition report released on Feb. 17.
The new ministry will be tasked with reforming the pension system, reviewing and updating labor and employment laws for the public and private sectors, and creating a PalauJobs virtual job board.
The current Ministry of Cultural and Community Affairs will be dismantled and its bureaus distributed to other ministries.
The Bureau of Aging, Disability, and Gender is moving to the Ministry of Health and the Gender Division to move to the Bureau of Domestic Affairs under the Ministry of State. The Bureau of Youth, Applied Arts, and Career will be realigned with Youth Career falling under the Ministry of Human Resources, Tourism and Economic Development. The Sports Facilities Maintenance Program and National Housing Commission responsibilities will move to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, while the Bureau of Archives and Research will move to the Bureau of Domestic Affairs.
While the “realignment” could take time, Whipps will manage the rest of the ministries except the Ministry of Finance and MPII.
He said this is because realignment had to be completed first, before selecting ministers.
A memo was previously sent to all government directors from the Office of the President advising that until ministers are confirmed, all matters requiring ministerial approval should be directed to Whipps.
Ministries still pending the president’s appointment include the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Community & Cultural Affairs, and Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism.
“The ‘re-alignment’ of the ministries would also determine the qualifications required for the ministers,” Whips told reporters.
He said during the time of former President Ngiratkel Etpison’s term from 1989 to 1993, the president was without ministers for two years .
With this, Whipps also transmitted to the Palau Congress his proposed financial package for fiscal 2021.
During the Remengesau administration, the previous Congress passed a budget covering only half of the fiscal 2021 to give President Whipps and the new Congress is to come up with its own budget.
The budget submitted by the president also includes a new relief package for workers affected by the pandemic. mbj