(February 26, 2003, Washington, D.C.) Deputy Assistant Secretary David Cohen today announced the appointment of Ramona Jones from Guam as Special Advisor for Economic Policy for the Insular Areas. The Insular Areas include the U.S. territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the so-called "freely associated states": the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Jones' primary responsibilities will be to promote private sector investment and economic development in the islands.
Jones, who grew up on Guam and the island of Tinian in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, graduated from the University of San Francisco with a bachelor's degree in International Business and Finance and then worked for Jones & Guerrero Co. She is the daughter of Guam businessman Ken Jones and the former Elaine Cruz, and is married to Juan Carlos Benitez. Benitez's father, the late Pepe Benitez, was the former Deputy High Commissioner for the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
Jones will report directly to Cohen. "I can't think of anyone who could be more qualified for this job," said Cohen. "With her energy, experience and knowledge of the islands, she's the perfect person to spearhead our economic development agenda."
Jones' prior experience in government service includes serving as Deputy White House Liaison for Secretary Colin Powell at the State Department. After the September 11th attacks, she was promoted to the White House to assist with the Office of Homeland Security and other agencies in the National Security Portfolio. From the White House, Jones was appointed to Director of Special Projects in the Investment Development and Economic Growth Department of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). OPIC facilitates U.S. business projects in developing countries by providing loans, loan guarantees and political risk insurance. During her tenure there, Jones worked with representatives of the President of Palau to complete the signing of a bilateral agreement that now allows OPIC to fund and insure projects in Palau.
"Having an economic development advocate dedicated exclusively to the Insular Areas helps to assure that their perspectives are considered in President Bush's economic growth initiatives and also that particular attention will be paid to confronting the unique economic challenges facing the islands," Jones said. "In the history of the Office of Insular Affairs, never has there been a stronger commitment to the people this office represents than during the Bush administration."
For the first time ever, under the leadership of President Bush and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, individuals of territorial ancestry hold the ranking positions in the Office of Insular Affairs. Newly appointed Special Advisor Ramona Jones is a Chamorro, and both Deputy Assistant Secretary David Cohen and Director Nikolao Pula are of Samoan heritage.