PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On October 13th, 2021, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—virtually received Stephen Ndegwa, Country Director from the World Bank, Degi Young, World Bank’s Resident Representative of the North Pacific, et al. for the launching ceremony of the FSM Priority Road Improvements & Management Enhancements (PRIME) Project. Accompanying the President in Palikir were the Nation’s diplomatic corps from the People’s Republic of China, Japan, the United States of America, and Australia, and the Governor of Pohnpei State’s representative. Accompanying the President virtually were the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the State of Yap (the Honorable Henry S. Falan and the Honorable Jesse J. Salalu), the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Chuuk (the Honorable Mekioshy William), and the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Kosrae (the Honorable Arthy G. Nena).
The FSM PRIME Project represents forty million dollars ($40,000,000) of investment infrastructure, technical assistance, and capacity development for the FSM. Funded by the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), the PRIME Project is a key initiative of the Panuelo- George administration’s broader Pave the Nation program. The Pave the Nation program is meant to address the deteriorated state of the Nation’s road network, and improve the FSM’s roads so as to make them climate-resilient.
The States of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae all directly benefit from the PRIME Project. For the State of Kosrae, the PRIME Project includes improvements to the Lelu Causeway. Constructed more than fifty years ago, the causeway is very narrow, low, and has insufficient drainage. The causeway is presently suffering from erosion and scouring from tidal action. The improvements should provide for significantly increased natural water-flow dynamics.
For the State of Pohnpei, the PRIME Project includes the replacement of the Awak Bridge. The forty-foot-long concrete bridge is already considered to be unsafe, and in the event the bridge becomes unusable the practical effect would mean that outlying communities would be unable to access essential social services such as healthcare and education.
For the State of Chuuk, the PRIME Project includes the approximately one-mile extension of roads in Weno. At present, the road from the Chuuk Airport to the Pou Bay Bridge is barely passable due to never-ending chains of waterlogged potholes; yet, the road forms the primary access between
Weno town proper, and the communities and facilities in Sapuk. The climate-resilient concretizing of the road, similar to the roads in Weno town proper, will result in profound quality-of-life improvements for FSM citizens residing in Chuuk.
For the State of Yap, the Donoch and Tagaaniyal Bridges—the two short-span steel and concrete composite bridges in Colonia, located right on the shoreline—are presently considered to be abjectly unsafe. The primary and secondary support steel I-beams have completely rusted, and the underside of the bridge decks has spalled, revealing corroded reinforcement. The need for replacement is sufficiently urgent that the FSM Department of Transportation, Communication, & Infrastructure (TC&I) has recommended weight limits and/or possible closure, as an interim precaution. Thankfully, amongst the PRIME Project’s scope of work in Yap includes the replacement of these bridges.
“I extend the FSM’s appreciation, as well as my own personal appreciation,” President Panuelo said during the launching ceremony, “to the World Bank technical team, and to the Department of TC&I, for designing the FSM PRIME Project to include a healthy mix of technical assistance, capacity development, and investment infrastructure. I also extend our appreciation to the FSM National Project Management Unit and the State Project Management Offices for their collaborativetechnical efforts.”
“We are thankful that the PRIME Project will provide us with the planning tools to seek additional funding for the Pave the Nation initiative or program from other development partners, including the Government of the United States of America, the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the Government of Australia through its infrastructure financing facility, the Government of Japan, and the Asian Development Bank. I am pleased to note, in this regard, that our request for financial support from the Asian Development Bank is now in the final stages of negotiation and approval. I also note that the World Bank is already preparing a second road project, with funding expected to be approved early next year.”