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Tuesday morning was met with promise, potential and possibilities during the formal launching of the Youth Entrepreneur Solution (YES) action plan. The YES initiative “seeks to encourage the development of a dynamic business community in the young generation” and is a joint program under the Palau Government; the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce (MPIIC); Palau Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It “also reduces the costs associated with youth unemployment, and in-turn minimizes youth social conflict and segregation, by helping them achieve economic independence, and help improve their self-esteem.”

Palau Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) representatives and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative at the formal launching for the Youth Entrepreneur Solution action plan.

The gathering was attended by President Johnson Toribiong; MPIIC Minister Jackson Ngiraingas; Ngatpang Delegate Jerry Nabeyama; UNDP representatives Ahmed Moustafa and Mezi Khan; Dean Joe Tutii Chilton of Palau Community College and a host of community representatives and local youth.

Opening remarks were given by SDBP-representative, businessman and Senate-hopeful Philip Reklai– explaining the Palau Small Business Development Centre’s (SBDC) mission and their commitment to growing small business through the younger generation. Reklai shared personal anecdotes about having started his own business with only $100 and implored President Toribiong for support from the nation’s leadership: “President, Palau needs support for small businesses.”

President Toribiong opened his speech with the simple statement: “There is no shortcut to success except hard work.” He went on to cite three major requisites in order to succeed in business: a dream and commitment to hard work, access to capital and expertise. He went on to admit that the first and most dominant challenge for himself and Congress would be investment law reform, citing the need to bring more capital, customers and clientele to Palau.

Additionally, he told of the challenges facing the private-sector in terms of income and profitability. President Toribiong pointed out that, at this time, the most profitable job in the Republic is that of a Senator or Delegate– “$50,000 a year and you don’t even work full-time!” He stated that such positions were less-than-ideal examples for the Palauan youth.

The President also shared anecdotes about his acquaintances, Chinese businessmen. He spoke of how, culturally, they are adept at business because they are taught how to make money from a young age. In contrast, he pointed out, Palauans are of a “chew and chat” culture. President Toribiong then went on to paraphrase a line from H.G. Barnett’s Being a Palauan, saying “Palauans consider leisure to be their right, only to be interrupted by their work.”

President Toribiong emphasized that the only way for young Palauan entrepreneurs to succeed in their business ventures is to “rise above the ‘chew and chat’ culture… Work hard and be aggressive.” He ended his rousing speech by reminding everyone to rely, not so much on the government but, on themselves to succeed and that “entitlement is the enemy of success.”

Ahmed Moustafa from the UNDP spoke briefly about the YES action plan, the leadership skills to be gained through the program. He stated that the primary goal of YES is to prepare future generations for leadership, in the private and public sectors. Using the oft-quoted “teach them well and let them lead the way,” Moustafa explained that YES has the potential to harness energy, enthusiasm and risk-taking (notable qualities in young people) and redirecting them towards becoming the skills and capacity to “lead the way for the future of Palau.”

Philip Reklai closed by sharing his own personal belief, that opportunity has always been here in Palau– but for the children of the country. “Keep this opportunity in Palau, for Palauans. It’s for our children and for us.

The initiative “comprises of business plan training and contest for youth in the country.” It is open to “high school and college graduates between ages 18 and 35, possess genuine aspirations to learn new business skills and strategies with the intentions to improve performances in the business community.” For further details, call Palau SBDC Director Lisa Abraham at 587-6004/775-5472 or email lees@pacificsbdc.com.