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Poverty in the Federated States of MicronesiaThe Federated States of Micronesia is a beautiful country with an interesting setup. The nation is composed of four island states with their own constitutions and legislatures. While this allows the four islands to maintain their own traditions and relative independence, it does make it difficult to coordinate the four states on national policy and reforms. Due to this, the states struggle to come to a consensus on issues and have not developed as well as they could have, leading to a reliance on development assistance and international aid. Unfortunately, the lack of development in Micronesia has also led to poverty concerns, with 41.2 percent of the population living below the national poverty line, which is one of the highest percentages of islands in the Pacific.

Although the nation has a promising economic outlook – the Asian Development Bank predicts that the economy will grow 2.5 percent between 2017 and 2018, following 3 percent growth in 2016 – poverty in the Federated States of Micronesia is still a concern. This is due to underdevelopment and the nation’s struggle for cohesion between the four states. These issues can be mitigated by new devotion to development. The local and national governments may have a limited capacity now, but there are ways to bring them together, namely by sharing industries. If the four islands have one or two main sources of industry or resources that they produce, then they will have something in common to negotiate about. Stable industries also help develop nations, so this solution would have multiple benefits.

Unfortunately, industry is limited in Micronesia, requiring the nation to rely on aid from the United States and international banking organizations such as the Asian Development Bank. The nation has few natural resources to export, and the fishing industry has become limited. One opportunity that has been taken in recent years is the development of water bottling plants. While this is not a long-term solution, plants such as these could be beneficial to the Micronesian people, who need access to jobs that are not reliant on the government.

Another concern that could lead to poverty in the Federated States of Micronesia is the threat of overfishing. As Pacific islands, there is a wealth of fishing opportunities, but overfishing has led to one of the only dependable resources suddenly becoming scarce. Without fishing, many citizens of Micronesia will lose a food source as well as job opportunities. Since fish are not as available, the fisheries will have to hire fewer workers, which is one of the causes of higher unemployment. In order to solve the issue of overfishing, the government of Micronesia needs to craft a policy that limits the amount each individual can fish per week, with strict fines for overfishing, and eventually even legal penalties. This would not only provide the incentive for citizens to behave in a more ecologically friendly way, but it would also help alleviate the overfishing issue, ultimately helping to decrease poverty in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Ultimately, the deciding factor in Micronesia’s fight against poverty lies in the government’s hands. Having four distinct states with separate constitutions makes it difficult to bring the states together for meaningful change. In order to provide cohesion, Micronesia needs to establish a more centralized federal government with one constitution, allowing the states to have their own laws and history, but not their own country. This would encourage more international cooperation and help aid packages reach people in need, as well as bring the people of Micronesia together.

Rachael Blandau

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Micronesia
Poverty in Micronesia? The lush beauty of the tropical island group known as Micronesia implies a paradise of plenty, yet the Federated States of Micronesia remains a nation burdened by poverty. Here are five facts about poverty in Micronesia:

  1. Nearly one in five people live on less than $2 a day. Though the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of an impressive 607 separate islands across its four major states of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, the population totals approximately 100,000. As of 2013, over 17 percent of the population lived on just $1.90 a day, well below the poverty line.
  2. Malnutrition is a major contributing factor. A lack of variety in available foods results in hunger, especially among children, and impedes the opportunity for citizens to rise above poverty in Micronesia. Many families rely on a local diet full of processed meats, canned fish, and carbohydrate-heavy produce such as breadfruit and yams, resulting in malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, more than 20 percent of pregnant women are anemic in the broader Pacific Island region where Micronesia lies. Sadly, 29 of every 1,000 babies born in Micronesia currently do not survive past their first year.
  3. The global definition of poverty may not apply. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielagaoi went on public record in September 2016 criticizing the United Nations’ current formula to measure poverty across the globe. This criticism stems from his consideration of the practical realities of life in the Pacific, in which it is common for young adults to have many children. He went so far as to say the existing figure of poverty, which is defined by an individual earning less than $400 per week, was “very stupid.” In response, the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Group has appointed a dedicated committee to create a more appropriate replacement.
  4. A manufactured scarcity of resources is a leading cause. A drought in early 2016 caused the Asian Development Bank to lower the GDP projection for the Federated States of Micronesia to a mere two percent. Meanwhile, a broader problem of persistent societal disruption contributes to this slowing of growth. Initially examined in a 2004 study known as the Jenrok Report, life in the Pacific was described as a myriad of deficiencies. Overcrowding, contaminated ground wells and a lack of many home connections to a central water system cause sickness and contributed to poverty. Yet the Pacific governments consistently fail to spend all funds provided by other countries in foreign aid. This false scarcity shows that substantial improvement must be done at the administrative and infrastructural levels to provide for the people of Micronesia.
  5. Work is being done to improve it. The Salvation Army has worked tirelessly for more than two decades in the states of Pohnpei and Chuuk to reduce poverty, providing direct aid by supplying food and establishing social and spiritual development services. Another nonprofit organization, the USEAO, is headquartered in Seattle and was founded in 2013. They are similarly dedicated to improving the lives of citizens in Micronesia by contributing direct aid and concentrating on solving the problem of infant malnutrition.

Thanks in part to the efforts of organizations such as the Salvation Army and the USEAO, poverty-relief in Micronesia is improving. The Asian Development Bank GDP projection for the coming year is higher than 2016, and efforts to increase tourism in the Federated States of Micronesia show promise for a future where poverty is a thing of the past.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr