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A Reader’s Comments on the WSJ Report, “Is Yap Ready for the World?”

[Web Manager’s Note]

The following text is from a facebook post of Wall Street Journal report, “Is Yap Ready for the World?“. While expressing the appreciation to the reporter’s efforts, the reader pointed out certain inaccuracies in the report. We re-post the comments here.

Original link

Siro,

It is deeply appreciated that the Wall Street Journal reporter has visited Yap, interviewed extensively on different sides of ETG’s investment, and published the article. This article has made Yap better known to the world, just as Justin Nobel did (link 1, link 2, link 3).

However, there are some inaccuracies in the report, which could be discerned by any concerned people. While truly appreciating the reporter’s effort, those inaccuracies might need to be pointed out. They are:

 

1. “The island has long relied on U.S. aid, which is scheduled to end in 2023.”

The financial aids of the Compact fund to FSM are not all terminated in 2023. According to US Ambassador to FSM, what is going to be terminated is the aid from US Department of the Interior. However, there are many other US departments and offices still operating their grant projects in the FSM, not subjected to be terminated in 2023. Therefore, the statement “Compact fund is going to end in 2023” may reflect people’s worries, but it is not accurate. 

 

2. “Unemployment is 6%,”

According to Yap State Statistics Yearbook 2012, unemployment rate was 6% in 2010 (p.37). 

 

3. “Mr. Deng promises to build Yap a deeper port, a hospital and new schools.”

According to the ETG-Yap State Cooperative Investment Agreement, what ETG promised are: a hospital, new public park, new state capitol. Schools are not included. (https://concernedyapcitizens.wordpress.com/signed-investment-agreement/)
4. “His company also would pay every resident $400 a year.”

This promise of $400/per capita/per year, if I understand it correctly, is ETG’s exchange for the Yap State citizen’s consent to amend current laws to legalize gaming in Yap—for gaming is illegal in Yap now. The amount and payment method is: $200 for those who voted for agreeing to amend the laws, and then $400 when the casino(s) begins to operate. (I am not sure if $400 will be paid annually or only once.) (http://www.facebook.com/groups/404462399564440/permalink/502166176460728/) (https://concernedyapcitizens.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/legal-analysis-on-bribery/)

 

5. “Yapese fret that the project would break ties with ancestral villages.”

Probably it is what the interviewees told the reporter when they were interviewed. However, the more accurate reason for local’s hesitation or reluctance is: Yapese culture is deeply associated with people’s direct interaction with the land over time. 

Secondly, according to the land lease agreement between ETG and the Yapese landowner, the relocation project or “native town community” was not mentioned at all. That is to say, unless there are other agreements between ETG (the lessee) and the Yapese landowner (the lessor), ETG is not obligated to build a “native town community” for the displaced Yapese. (http://www.facebook.com/groups/404462399564440/permalink/566275096716502/) (https://concernedyapcitizens.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/1809/

 

6. “foreigners can’t own property on Yap.”

The more precise expression might be “non-FSM citizens cannot own land property in FSM.”

 

7. “Because foreigners can’t own property on Yap, the developers must secure 99-year leases from village property owners.” 

The causal relation between those two clauses is not very strong. Foreigners cannot own land property in Yap does not necessarily lead to their “must” securing land for 99 years.

 

8. “Opponents who have gotten copies of the leases proposed by ETG bristle at their terms, complaining the rents are low and diminish over time.”

From a Yapese landowner (or “the lessor”)’s point of view. There are many, many reasons why ETG’s land lease agreement is difficult to be accepted, other than the rent rate. (http://www.facebook.com/groups/404462399564440/permalink/566275096716502/) (https://concernedyapcitizens.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/1809/

 

9. “Officially, the U.S. is neutral on the Chinese proposal. “The U.S. is not opposed to legitimate investors and investments that would provide long-term benefits to the people of Yap,” said Doria Rosen, the U.S. ambassador to Micronesia, in a statement last fall.” 

The original quote from US Ambassador Rosen’s statement could be read here:
(http://yapstategov.org/News/10-2012/10-23-12.htm). 

The context was: Yap State News Brief misquoted US Ambassador Rosen’s statement (http://yapstategov.org/News/10-2012/10-17-12.htm) , and then Ambassador Rosen clarified the misquote. I personally think it would be more appropriate to fully quote what she said to avoid further confusion. Her words were:

“[T]he U.S. is not opposed to legitimate investors and investments that would provide long-term benefits to the people of Yap. Investment proposals should be open and transparent.” (http://yapstategov.org/News/10-2012/10-17-12.htm)

 

10. “Yap’s legislature passed legislation restricting foreign investment to try to dissuade ETG from moving forward.” 

In my understanding, the legislation passed by Yap State Legislature in October 2012, restricting foreign investment and business activities, cannot regulate ETG, for ETG had already got their foreign investment permit and business license. “Dissuade ETG from moving forward” is not the intent of the senator who introduced the bill either. The mentioned legislation should be understood as the “prevention” bills for avoiding similar controversies brought by foreign investor in the future.

 

11. “The island resort, if built, would be the first investment abroad for Mr. Deng’s company, Exhibition and Travel Group, or ETG.”

ETG’s first oversea investment should be either the Maldives (http://www.maldivesembassy.jp/cat_001/7755) or Samoa (http://samoaembassy.cn/?thread-863-1.html). Maldives’ then-vice President Dr. Mohamed Waheed visited China and met with ETG in October 2011. Samoa signed MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with ETG in September 2011. Yap could be the third.

However, I do not know how long has ETG been interested in the Maldives, Samoa and Yap, respectively. I could be wrong though. Timeline for ETG in Yap is here:https://concernedyapcitizens.wordpress.com/timeline/

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I myself have sent those opinions to the reporter. The fact that the reporter has visited the island and spent time interviewing various people is itself sincerely valued. Hope different readers around the world could know Yap a little bit more by reading this article, and have a clue of the current heated issues debating on the island.

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