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Falcam, Leo (Micronesia)

Reference work entry

Introduction

Leo Falcam became president of the Federated States of Micronesia in July 1999. He aimed to revitalize the economy, protect Micronesian culture and develop international relations. He oversaw the renegotiation of the Compact of Free Association with the USA, which expired in 2001.

Early Life

Leo A. Falcam was born on 20 Nov. 1935 in Pohnpei State in the Federated States of Micronesia, then under Japanese jurisdiction. He graduated in sociology from the University of Hawaii in 1962. Returning home, he taught for a short while before joining the government of the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI, established in 1947). In 1964 he was appointed assistant district administrator for Ponape District.

In 1965 Falcam studied public administration and international relations at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. The following year he rejoined the TTPI government, working for the high commissioner. In 1972 he was made the first native district administrator of the Ponape District. In 1975 he led the Pohnpei delegation at the convention to establish a Micronesian constitution. The following year he was put in charge of the Micronesia-US liaison office in Washington, which evolved into Micronesia’s embassy.

Following the official establishment of the Federated States in May 1979, Falcam was named governor of Pohnpei State. In 1983 he chaired the State’s constitutional convention. The following year he became postmaster general, holding the post until he was voted Pohnpei’s senator in 1987. He also held senior positions with the Micronesian bank, the Pohnpei agriculture and trade school board of trustees and the PATS Peace foundation.

In May 1997 Falcam was elected vice president by congress. He won the presidency in May 1999.

Career Peak

In his inauguration speech Falcam outlined plans to kick-start the economy (which suffered from high levels of unemployment), protect Micronesian cultural values and establish closer international ties. Tourism was emphasized as a key economic sector, although the cost of developing infrastructure hampered the industry. Major reforms to the public sector were introduced.

The Micronesian economy received around US$100 m. a year between 1986 and 2001 from the US as part of the Compact of Free Association, which allowed US military bases in the region. The treaty was subject to re-negotiation but there was concern at the lack of accountability in Micronesia's expenditure programmes. Falcam's administration reached a compromise with Palau and the Marshall Islands over joint management of commercial fish stocks. In Jan. 2001 he was appointed chairman of the standing committee for the Pacific Islands leaders conference.

At elections in March 2003 Falcam lost his seat for the state of Pohnpei Micronesia to Resio Moses. Falcam remained in office until 11 May 2003 when Joseph Urusemal was elected president.

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