Tell us about yourself
I’ve spent the last ten years working with the Government of the Republic of Marshall Islands. My work focuses on improving public financial management. This can be a big challenge; but the work is important, so it is very exciting at the same time.
I am currently the Secretary of Finance. I’ve been with the Ministry for three years, and prior to that I was with the Ministry of Health. My very first job was with the Economic Planning and Statistics Office on performance-based budgeting. I enjoyed that first role a lot and had a lot of support from mentors, which was important.
You have spent your career in public service. What makes you devoted to public service?
You have to love what you are doing; you can’t be forced to work with the government. I think one factor that made me want to go into public service was that both of my parents worked for the government.
They would constantly speak of accountability and efficiency and solving these problems, and that gave me a very strong sense of wanting to give back to people.
What advice would you give to young women who want to become involved in the public service?
Don’t hold back. When we come into some fields as women we are a bit hesitant, particularly within Pacific culture. It can be easy to think: ‘I’m a woman - we can’t really talk.’ But you have to put those thoughts in the back of your mind.
To young women I would say: 'Don’t let anything hold you back. Don’t be shy. Don’t let cultural barriers stop you; find your own way around them and make a difference.'
Do you think the public service and other professional careers can be harder for women?
Very much so. I surely felt I was not adequate. I didn’t know much when I started in my career and I was required to give training and I found it intimidating; I thought ‘who will listen to me?’
But over time you become tougher. It was exposure that I needed most of all. Low self-esteem plays a part in that too. But you do the years and get the experience. Now when I see new college graduates I can tell they have the same worries as I had. But just continuing to push forward, your confidence grows. When you become reliable, they will rely on you.
What’s your favorite quote or saying?
My dad was always one of my biggest influences, especially in terms of ethics and honesty. He used to say: “It’s always better to be respected than to be liked. You always need to choose what is right.”
He used to tell me that and now I say it to everyone, including my husband.
What are the biggest issues in the Marshall Islands now, and how can they be addressed?
We’re a small nation, we have only a little over 50,000 people and have our challenges in terms of location, transport and communication so we have to work with what we have. We want to develop our islands, but climate change is a big threat for us. We have many of issues to deal with for our development to progress.
Now we are getting more assistance from the World Bank, the ADB and the EU, but now we need process capacity for implementation and we need to improve governance for project management systems.
Where do you see the Pacific as a region, in 25 years?
The region’s issues are similar to the Marshall Islands' in general. The region has a small population and has similar challenges in terms of remoteness. I think the region needs to come together more and speak with one voice on our cross-cutting issues, particularly climate change.
If you could be remembered for one thing – what would it be?
Someone who wanted to help. Someone who wanted to make a difference to their community; genuinely and nothing else.
*The World Bank has been supporting the Federated States of Micronesia to enhance electricity supply, increase the use of renewable energy, enhance telecommunications, increase fisheries revenue while managing them more sustainably, strengthening climate investment and improving the ability to respond to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.