An agreement among four island groups in the north Pacific is expected to pave the way for multi-million dollar United States Congressional funding to pay retirement benefits to more than 3,000 islanders who worked for the now-dissolved U.S. Trust Territory government.
The agreement between the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Northern Marianas is now being reviewed by the Department of the Interior.
It calls for the social security systems in each of the four island groups to take over the previous retirement scheme, known as the prior service programme, so that by January 2006 all four are writing their own cheques and taking care of their own people.
The prior service programme has been unable to meet payment benefits in recent years for lack of money.
US Congress officials have promised additional funding when the group's social security programmes take over from the Saipan-based prior service operation.