Words from Orakidorm —- 

An article titled, “The Cruel Dilemma: Money Economies in the Pacific” by Father Hezel discusses some of the painful issues that confronts small island societies like Palau in thinking through their economic strategies. One of the irony brought up by this article is the very idea of “preserving our culture” by those who are in a position to exploit it the most. For example, “cash economy” is divergently opposite of “subsistence economy” in moving our nation into or within this age of modernity and those who owns “cash” change the culture.

To keep the government going cost money.  And because it cost money, we have to become more dependent on foreign grants. And more foreign grants deter real development of economy of scale. For example, let’s say our local revenue is $38 Million US$ and our “authorized budget” is $70 Million US$, where is the rest ($32 Million US $) coming from? Isn’t that, the greatest of all irony, that while we aspire to be independent, we are becoming more dependent on someone else? How is that different from being “aunty-pendent”?

Let’s look at the science of “supply and demand”. “Increase the minimum wage” is a statement of the moment but can that be done without price control policies? Who shall benefit from increasing minimum wage? Wouldn’t be the major enterprises who does retail and wholesale businesses in Palau? Exactly how any of those in the informal sector (the so called “unemployed”) will benefit from such as scheme? The cycle of economics will in the end benefit the supplier and how is the consumer different from being “aunty-pendent”?

Then within our society, the creation of the “new elite”, the modern “aunties” are now the power brokers who have achieved prominence and wealth through exploitation of “foreign grants”. It is this very beast that will in the end siphon the last economic gas from those who are “aunty-pendence”. By that, the poor will become very poor and the rich will become filthy rich. How can a society survive without a middle class?

In the circles as they discuss the “lazy Palauan, the aunty-pendent”, I can only think about the “aunties” who are getting richer by exploiting the MIRAB (Migration, Remittances, Aid and Bureaucracy) economy model. For Palau, such model, which would have been perhaps a viable option for the short term is now exploited by the “new elites” and perpetuated by the government. For example, locals, they are migrating out, for the expatriate they are migrating in, lack of remittances in but about $13 Million US$ remittances out per annum, Aid for the “aunties” and subsistence for the “pendents”, and Bureaucracy for those who are “IN” government.

In the end, any economic model must be translated to enhance social capacities to reduce “aunty-pendent”. After all it is not the “minimum wage” that is the issue, it is the purchasing power which can only be enhanced and protected by improving social programs- mass transit, alternative energy health insurance, financial escrowing and securing the future through excellence in education. Perhaps that will move the “lazy aunty-pendent Palauan” to become “aunt-pendence” from the “new elite aunties”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: