European Union continues blacklist of Guam and Palau
In a Feb. 24 release, the Council of the European Union said it continues to promote fair tax competition and address harmful tax practices. “The Council today adopted conclusions on the revised EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, deciding to maintain the following countries on the list: American Samoa, Fiji, Guam, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Vanuatu.”
The council said it “regrets that these jurisdictions remain non-cooperative on tax matters and invites them to engage with the Code of Conduct Group in order to resolve the identified issues.”
The revised list … only includes countries that either have not engaged in a constructive dialogue with the EU on tax governance or have failed to deliver on their commitments to implement the necessary reforms, the release said. “Those reforms should aim to comply with a set of objective tax good governance criteria, which include tax transparency, fair taxation and implementation of international standards designed to prevent tax base erosion and profit shifting,” the EU said.
The EU list of “non-cooperative” jurisdictions for tax purposes was established in December 2017. As of 2020, the council updates the list twice a year, with the next update due in October. The Marshall Islands was also initially on the blacklist, according to Journal files.
By the numbers – cash coming into the Mariana Islands
The Northern Mariana Islands expects to receive $24 million and Guam $96 million, spread over the next five years from the $1.4 billion allocated through the U.S. infrastructure and transportation act.
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said at a Feb. 25 press conference that the NMI will receive “$4.6 million every year, starting this year all the way through 2026.” The governor said, “I am sure we’re going to look again at our roads.” He also said he would “sit down with Rota and Tinian and see their priorities on roads.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced it has awarded $12.8 million to Guam for increased broadband infrastructure, according to Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to Congress.
More than 10,000 households in Guam will benefit, San Nicolas said on Feb. 25. “The award “will be used to install quality middle-mile and last-mile broadband in Guam,” San Nicolas said.
“Big ship” arriving in Guam
The Guam Chamber of Commerce announced the arrival the week of Feb. 28 of a “big ship,” with about 6,000 personnel that will be seeking R&R. Naval Base Guam confirmed the arrival of the USS Abraham Lincoln on March 1. “The carrier will also be joined by Carrier Strike Group 3’s guided- missile destroyer USS Spruance on its first port of call,” a Navy release said.
The Abraham Lincoln has been in the Philippine Sea, after completing Noble Fusion military exercises.
FSM updates on Compact, US military presence in Yap, construction and more:
Regarding the negotiations on the Compact of Free Association, President David W. Panuelo said the FSM’s Joint Committee on Compact Review & Planning is “relatively close towards agreement on a proposed package which, if accepted internally, would be submitted to the U.S.-side sometime in March,” according to a March 1 release from the Office of the President from a briefing in Yap. The Compact Trust Fund has a balance of $1,079,914,682 and the FSM Trust Fund has a balance of $380,421,000, the release said.
Panuelo said “there are forthcoming upgrades and expansions to Yap State’s airport and seaport, including the construction of multi-purpose buildings that will serve the interests of both the FSM and the United States.” (See “All business,” in the Feb. 7 issue of the Journal, and on www.mbjguam.com and “Landing in the islands — the benefits and difficulties of economic development,” in the September-October 2021 issue of Guam Business Magazine for detailed background.
Regarding the Pave the Nation program, Panuelo said “work is expected to commence on the Donoch and Taaginyal bridges by the end of 2023, with funding provided by the World Bank. “ … Portions of the $75,000,000 from the PRIME project, and $12,000,000 from the SCORE project, will go directly to transportation projects in Yap State,” he said in the release.
The Prioritized Road Investment and Management Enhancements or PRIME refers to infrastructure projects, with funding from various sources. (See “FSM pitches Guam contractors on $400 million in CIP projects, in the April 5, 2021, issue of the Journal.) SCORE refers to Strategic Climate-Oriented Road Enhancements work. For more details, see https://tci.gov.fm/documents/pmu/safeguardinstruments/prime-score-sep.pdf.
Panuelo said he and the Pacific Islands Development Program are working towards a possible convening of the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders in or around May or June, with the intention of U.S. President Joseph R. Biden opening the meeting, with Panuelo serving as chairman.
Some 4,000 citizens have left the FSM since the border closure in 2020 till present, with a median age of 25; 1,451 persons have been repatriated into the FSM since then, according to the release. “Repatriation activities might begin again in March or April, depending on the severity of the Omicron variant in Guam, and the vaccination rate for young children and adolescents,” the release said.
(The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimated the FSM population to be 114,790 as at Jan. 1.)
The United Nations Multi-Country Office “has been established” and the FSM is hoping to solicit funding assistance from partners such as Australia for the construction of its campus, Panuelo said.
Regarding shipping, a Chinese-constructed and donated passenger ship is presently in the water, and the FSM expects delivery of the vessel in April. Panuelo also said the forthcoming Guardian-class patrol boats – constructed and donated by Australia – are due to arrive in April and July. The FSM is working with Japan to acquire four smaller patrol boats, the release said.
In other Compact related news, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs announced March 1 (CHamoru Standard Time), $1,88 million in fiscal 2022 Technical Assistance Program funding to the Marshall Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services for the Four Atoll Healthcare Program, which “provides primary healthcare services for communities from the four nuclear-affected atolls of Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap, and Utrok in the Marshall Islands.”
The funding will support clinics for nuclear-affected communities on Majuro, Mejatto, Kili, Enewetak, and Utrok. “For the peoples of Enewetak and Utrok, as well as the dislocated peoples of Bikini and Rongelap, these clinics provide primary and ancillary healthcare services …,” the release said. Funding this year includes an increase to support a dentist and dental equipment.
Another tippy toe step forward in easing Guam COVID restrictions
The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services authorized private sector companies and organizations as well as the public sector were authorized on Feb. 26 to “conduct meetings, conferences, and similar activities, either in their place of business or off-site,” for up to 100 people and subject to the requirements which include masks, handwashing and cleaning and disinfection requirements, as well as ventilation and signage.
On Feb. 25, DPHSS said establishments would no longer need to verify COVID vaccinations status or keep contact lists from the following day.
The Mariana Islands and Russia’s tourism links
For several years, visitors from Russia were a frequent sight in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. A 45-day visa waiver program ran from 2009 for the NMI and from 2012 for Guam until it was ended in October 2019, though consideration was given on a case-by-case basis after that. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security noted that in fiscal 2012, the first year the program was extended to Guam, 26 Russian visitors overstayed their parole in Guam and 147 overstayed in fiscal 2017.
Both Guam and the NMI have had a small population of residents of Russian origin. During the visa waiver years, some residents in the Mariana Islands took advantage of their language skills to support that market or provide translation services and material. The market grew steadily to thousands in both the NMI and Guam, though it was affected by the fluctuation of the ruble and political crises and events, according to Journal files. Russian visitors were typically high spenders, with a tendency to shop luxury and American brands and often stayed for weeks. The Guam Visitors Bureau estimated the average Russian visitor spent $1,600 each day.
Russian visitors increased in the NMI from 2006 to 2009, from 1,571 to 6,799 visitors per year, and rose in 2013 to 10,987 visitors with the launch of further charter flights to the NMI. The market continued to develop into 2014.
In calendar 2014, GVB reported that tourism arrivals broke records for the third year in a row. Calendar year-to-date arrivals for 2014 ended with 1,342,377, 7,880 more visitors than 2013’s banner arrivals of 1,334,497. Russian arrivals increased by 101.5% to 16,293 according to Journal files and GVB figures. The Guam market was viewed as having the potential to reach between 30,000 to 50,000 visitors per annum, according to Journal files.
A Russian basketball team – Vostok-65 – visited Guam on a 10-day training session in February 2019, as its players prepared for a “super league” playoff season in their homeland. The team – which stayed at the Hotel Santa Fe – had several exhibition matches with local basketball teams and had the opportunity to explore Guam during their visit.
GCC graduates 22 from boot camps
Guam Community College hosted Feb. 28 a completion ceremony for 22 participants of the Diesel Mechanic I and Construction III boot camps.
The six-week Diesel Mechanic I boot camp for 13 participants included Introduction to Diesel Tech and Preventative Maintenance I and Diesel Tech and Preventative Maintenance II, Diesel Engines I. Private sector partners are Triple J Enterprises Inc., Mr. Rubbishman, Mid Pac Far East LLC, East West Rental Center Inc., Guam Pak Express Inc., Pepsi Bottling Co., Morrico Equipment, and Atkins Kroll Inc. Guam.
The nine-week Construction III boot camp was fully funded by the Department of Interior’s Technical Assistance Program Grant awarded to GCC. Inland Builders is the private sector partner for the Construction Boot Camp, which had nine participants.
Students will also receive certification in Basic First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation with an automated defibrillator.
For your address book:
The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has changed its website address to https://www.chcc.health/.
All links and emails to www.chcc.gov.mp will redirect to www.chcc.health. mbj