15 Dec 2008

Marshalls may lose 21 million dollars this week

11:33 am on 15 December 2008

There appears to be no movement to prevent nearly 21 million US dollars in an escrow account for landowners at a key American missile test facility being returned to the U.S.

This week is the five-year cut-off by which a new land use agreement is needed or the rental money being held is slated to return to the U.S. Treasury.

Despite repeated requests from the Marshall Islands President to engage on the issue, the US government has not indicated a willingness to do the same.

A Compact of Free Association between the Marshall Islands and the U.S. was amended in 2003, extending U.S. use of the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein until 2066.

But landowners balked at the new pact, saying the rent hike from $11 million to $15 million annually wasn't enough, and demanded $19 million and will not a sign a new land use agreement.

An escrow account was established for the difference in rental payments between the old and new agreements, and the U.S. Congress set a five-year window for a new deal to be approved.

With an inflation adjustment, annual rental payments are now above $17 million.

The Marshall Islands is waiting for a response from President George W. Bush to a letter the President sent last month seeking to delay the December 17 deadline.