I want to share my thoughts regarding a major Native American Policy Initiative that will be introduced in the 111th Congress.
Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) has completed revisions on the Indian Development Finance Corporation Act, a bill last introduced during the 100th Congress by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) as Senate Bill 721. This legislative initiative grew out of the work of the American Indian Policy Review Commission’s Economic Development Task Force, which concluded in 1977 that it should follow the strategy of the World Bank and create a government chartered, independent development corporation as they did with much success in lesser developed countries around the world.
The Development Finance Corporation’s mission was to provide important tools to create local economic infrastructure in ways the private sector world of commercial finance would not. S.721 would have authorized an institution to invest in capital infrastructure, such as development programs for alternative energy systems, agriculture, fisheries, communication systems and bond financing programs. Inouye is considering joining Faleomavaega in this effort with Senate legislation and proposing that it be combined with the Obama economic stimulus programs for Indian country.
As you point out in your Jan. 14 editorial [“New vision for Indian policy is needed,” Vol. 28, Iss. 32], the pattern of economic development in Indian country is uneven as it largely tracks the pattern of market opportunities for Indian gaming. The level of success by the tribes able to access this market is remarkable and reflects the dedication and commitment of their leadership. The IDFC has the potential to complement this pattern of development as it will create a stockholder ownership structure where the successful gaming tribes could invest both by purchasing significant blocks of secure common stock (i.e. federally guaranteed) in the IDFC as well as co-invest with the IDFC in underdeveloped areas of Indian country. A block of non-voting capital stock will be issued to the federal government to help with the initial capitalization and a $2 million operating budget of federally appropriated funds will help with the start-up costs for the first five years. The IDFC Board will be initially appointed by the president from recommendations of tribes and then appointed by the tribal shareholders after 10 percent of the initial stock offering of 500,000 shares has been purchased at $50 per share.
Your editorial comment referred to the need for tribal leaders to gather and discuss how to re-organize the foundations of national Indian policy. I strongly endorse such an initiative and believe that our leadership will step up to seize this opportunity shortly after the Obama administration has been established. Those leaders, who are appointed to positions on the IDFC Board, will be a key part of this process. We know the timing is critical.
– Alan Parker