9 May 2006

Marshall Islands government debt temporarily stops bank loans to workers

9:10 am on 9 May 2006

A one million US dollar Marshall Islands government debt owed to the national social security fund forced a local bank to temporarily stop issuing loans to government workers late last month.

The move produced a scramble at the ministry of finance to bring retirement

tax payments up to date.

The Marshall Islands social security administration officials say that the ministry of finance began making large payments late last month and through last week to bring the retirement and health fund payments current through to March 31.

The Government, which had previously paid the social security retirement and tax fund deductions after each fortnightly pay period, only managed two such payments in the last quarter.

Officials say it has also not made payments for the two pay periods in April.

The Marshalls government has faced financial woes this year forcing it to freeze general government spending in February because tax revenues were well below spending levels.

The Bank of Marshall Islands temporarily cut off processing loans for government workers because of what officials said was a high risk of not being able to collect on loan payments from the government.

The bank resumed processing the loans after government assurances it was paying off the debt.