PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — On May 18, 2021, David W. Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, was informed that the World Bank’s board of executive directors had approved the $40 million project to improve the FSM’s primary road network.
Discussed at length in President Panuelo’s inaugural address and subsequent public statements, the fruits of the past two years of labor for this effort — the FSM Prioritized Road Investment and Management Enhancements or PRIME Project — are part of the Panuelo-George administration’s Pave the Nation program.
As part of the program, the FSM PRIME Project will fund improvements to the way climate change is addressed in the road sector, including through a vulnerability assessment, a climate resilient road strategy, and the development of a climate-informed road asset management system. Additionally, the FSM PRIME Project will fund road safety initiatives, assist with improving accessing to drivers’ licenses, and support technical employment opportunities for women.
While many development projects focus on or otherwise address abstract concepts, the urgency for needing strong, durable, climate resilient roads is likely manifest to all FSM citizens.
Where reliable roads do not presently exist, accessibility to education, health, and other community services becomes hindered.
Where cement or concrete roads presently exist, they are — at best — often unsightly and dangerous due to the number and depth of potholes; at worst, they play an active role in harming the surrounding environment, first through their construction and secondly through their degradation.
Similarly, coral roads across the FSM are environmentally unsustainable to construct, serve their purpose for fewer years than fingers on a person’s hand and, upon their inevitable disintegration to rainfall and natural disasters, pollute waterways and mangroves.
“Firstly,” said President Panuelo in a statement, “I wish to extend, on behalf of the people and government of the FSM, our very sincere and heartfelt appreciation to the World Bank for approving the FSM PRIME Project. I would also like to thank the World Bank for their historical, contemporary, and future technical support. It is a blessing for our country to know that the World Bank’s efforts are to assist our nation with our own priorities, which help improve the lives of all of our citizens. Whether it’s the Digital FSM Project that is democratizing knowledge through increased internet and e-Government accessibility and affordability, or the FSM PRIME Project, which democratizes community accessibility whilst taking efforts to protect this paradise in our backyards, we are deeply grateful for the World Bank’s generosity and sincerity.”
“Secondly,” President Panuelo continued, “I would like to emphasize to my dear fellow Micronesian citizens the scale of this very good news. Not a single day goes by without a call or email to the government about the state of our nation’s roads, and it seems like not a single day goes by without citizens across our four states posting pictures on social media of environmental damage from our roads, or the dangers from excessively large potholes. Vice President George and I mentioned our commitment to the Pave the Nation program right at the start of our administration because we hear your concerns about this collective, communal, nation-wide problem.”
He said “if the argument is to simply make people’s lives easier and healthier, to help them get from one place to another, our nation needs durable, sustainable, climate-resilient roads; if the argument is that, if we champion environmental stewardship, we ought to practice it, then our nation needs durable, sustainable, climate-resilient roads; if the argument is that we face challenges related to sea- level rise, intensified storm surges, increased rainfall, and flooding — like we saw this very week! — then our nation needs durable, sustainable, climate-resilient roads.”
The president added, “My dear fellow Micronesian citizens, Vice President George and I have promised to solve this problem. Thanks to the generous support of the World Bank, today we are one step closer to making climate-resilient roads a reality.”
Funded through a grant from the International Development Association, which is the World Bank’s means for providing financial assistance for the World’s most-in-need countries like the FSM, the FSM PRIME Project will be implemented by the FSM Department of Transportation, Communication, & Infrastructure.