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Self Sustainability in Palau: The philosophy of perpetual motion

Koror — Palau is one among many small island states that have been and are still, to some extent, isolated and dependent on imports via air and sea.

Palau is a small nation but it punches well above its weight. Its economy is very strong compared to the FSM and RMI but it is still very dependent on external sources of food, skills, fuel, raw and fabricated materials.

The last 50 years has been very good to Palau. The Compact of Free association enabled Palau to recover after WWII, it has had hundreds of millions of dollars of aid just from this source alone, and probably an equal amount from all the other grants and sponsorships.

But since Jan. 19, this source of income from the U.S seems to be under increasing threat. It’s almost impossible to say how the Trump administration will develop its policies but with a slogan like “America First,” it doesn’t bode well. Indeed after only 60 days even vital public services, cornerstones of academia and environmental regulation are facing unprecedented cuts. So, given that, what should Palau be doing to wean itself from the nurturing teat of U.S. influence and funding?

It should not immediately jump into bed with the first pretty face or fat wallet it sees. I’m talking of course about China. Palau should not be for sale.

Palau is doing things for itself, flying the nest as it were. Standing on its own two feet, cultivating its home grown talent by investing in its education system, so Palauans have the skills necessary to do the jobs currently outsourced to foreigners.

As a foreigner myself it would seem that I’m sawing at the branch I’m sitting on. Let me continue though.

Now more than ever Palau needs to be smart. Look before it leaps, think before it speaks. Build on good relationships and cut out the bad ones.

Self-sustainability does not happen overnight. It is an investment in the future, an investment in education and nurturing of youth through education. This means that the schools need to be improved, the teacher’s salaries increased to attract better teachers, facilities at the schools increased to provide a better environment for learning. A move away from dogmatic religious education and a focus more on sciences and relevant global skills.

Some may say that the U.S. and other sources are already providing huge amounts of funding through the MOE already. If so where is it going? Will it last? More importantly, why are so many Palauans leaving Palau? You cannot hope to keep Palau Palauan if your young talent leaves.

Self-sustainability is a monumental task. This is only going to come about by having the right people in the right job. It cannot happen when the wrong people are in a role because they are related to someone of influence. This is like trying to hammer in a nail with a potato.</