COM-FSM Hosts Round Table on a New Foreign Investment Bill

By Mason Wiley
COM Center for Entrepreneurship
October 5, 2016
Palikir, Pohnpei—The Young Executive Society (YES!), a student club at COM-FSM, and the Center for Entrepreneurship of COM-FSM collaborated to host a Round Table on National Campus to discuss a proposed bill that would change the way foreign investment is done in the FSM. Among other countries in the world, the FSM ranks near the bottom for friendliness towards foreign investment. The FSM National Government aims to remedy this by providing simplified processes for foreign investors. The new law would remove the responsibility of registering foreign investment from the four states of the FSM and place that power within the FSM National Government instead. Ideally, increased foreign investment could boost the FSM’s economy by injecting new capital that could create new jobs while also increasing tax revenue for public services.

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Besides the several dozen students who attended, both the FSM National Government and Pohnpei State Government sent staff to go over the details to help the students understand the effects. Florian Yatilman, National Trade Advisor with the FSM National Government, briefed the students on the purpose and scope of the bill followed by summary from Quirino Loyola of Pohnpei State’s Registrar of Corporations on the role of the government in registering and promoting foreign investment. The students then had the chance to voice their opinions and ask questions. The President of YES!, Hainrick Isaac, asked for more details on how these changes may affect land ownership for FSM citizens, and was assured that the bill would not alter any constitutionally protected land rights. There was also discussion on future plans to attract foreign investment for specific industries and services.
One concern was how the new law might affect local businesses or infringe on the states’ current laws designed to protect local economies and the environment from foreign corporate interests. The FSM National Government’s Assistant Secretary of Trade and Investment, Camille Movick, replied that they are working closely with the state governments, stating that the law can only work if the states favor it and want it to succeed. Many of the current restrictions on minimum capital, natural resource extraction, and protected industries may remain.
Jean Bertrand Azapmo, National Trade Adviser, encouraged students to become involved in the larger conversation as well, asking that they speak to friends and relatives to provide comments on this bill and other pending legislation. Randy Sue, a member of YES!, said that this kind of public participation is vital, but that most legislation is overly complicated and difficult to understand for many citizens. He suggested that important legislative proposals should include a digested version that explains the law in plain language. All in the room agreed.
Although foreign investment registration might not sound like a terribly exciting topic, many students walked away with a new understanding of its importance in shaping the FSM economy. Both the government officials and students agreed that conversations like these are necessary for FSM’s democracy, by giving the FSM’s future leaders the opportunity to understand the big topics and to voice their opinions. The Center for Entrepreneurship and YES! hope this will be the beginning of similar discussions between students and government in the future.