8 Mar 2008

Marshall Islands President to ask Taiwan for more aid

9:32 am on 8 March 2008

Marshall Islands President Litokwa Tomeing, who prior to his January election called for switching his country's diplomatic recognition to China, will make his first state visit to Taiwan on Monday.

He is expected to ask Taiwan to increase its economic aid programme to the Marshalls.

Taiwan currently provides $10 million annually in grants and budget

support, supports agriculture and aquaculture development projects, sends specialized medical teams and dispatches medical doctors to local hospitals, and is contributing about $2.5 million annually to the government's national trust fund.

The Marshall Islands faces an unemployment rate over 30 percent,

skyrocketing health problems, including a diabetes epidemic that is

estimated to affect more than 10 percent of the 53,000 islanders, and high public school drop out rates.