The more the elected elite search for lasting answers to stop the persistent revenue decline, the more they sink into the filthy swamp of disorientation and delusion.
The woefully bad business climate, stampeded by more ill-conceived tax mirage and further piled by the prohibitive cost of utilities NMI-wide, are issues that have driven business closures steadily. Thus the huge decline in local revenues.
It must be dizzying trying to map out the beast after decades of negligence as to derail any sense of unity in the formulation of principled policy solutions. It lends to an easy slide into the new norm of ad hoc planning, peddling feel good temporary measures.
They now do the rain dance, delicately juggling money collected daily to pay off over $40 million in deficit, not to mention the $200 million plus it owes the Fund. Deficits are constitutionally prohibited after the second year of any administration. This too has largely been ignored.
Thus, the search for answers commences in the hollow corners of their mind. Indeed, it’s a mind-numbing task given the magnitude of a seemingly irreversible economic disaster. But there’s the "better times" challenge promised two years ago that has become a source of embarrassment or an ugly permanent scar.
Definitely, the elected elite would chance employing the cargo cult mentality in hopes of easing the humongous drop in revenues. The local treasury is parched brown and dry! Would their adolescent alternative work against an impending historic financial disaster? Is time in their hands or have events overtaken their lame agility to do things right?
In their infinite wisdom peddlers of casino have seen fit to blatantly ignore the voice of governance on this issue. They must have concocted new mathematical formula as to brave asserting that casino would bring in an additional $10 million in taxes. It’s nothing more than a hollowed and honeyed plea of ignorance. Isn’t it true that Tinian Dynasty owes the local government some $30 million plus in taxes? How then do they justify $10 million in additional taxes?
Then comes the hasty mirage to saddle private industries with "exogenous" taxes. It’s hard enough running a business in a very sluggish business climate. Why push and hasten more business closures with ill-conceived taxes? Such measures would only exact the complete opposite: discourage new business startups while forcing existing businesses to flee the islands. It’s contractionary!
Does anybody have the coconuts to declare, "Wrong direction, let’s go this way!" I think it’s called leadership. The woefully prohibitive cost of utilities is a major stifling issue in the obvious decline of the business climate here. How about doing your homework by realistically repealing this and other beastly statutory impositions called "regressive" policies? Why must you actively partake in staring down at the edge of the NMI’s fiscal cliff? Isn’t the closure of a lot of businesses a sufficient indicator that investments have contracted severely and need real time resuscitation? Imposing more taxes is a mirage, ludicrous in all its form and substance.
Death of traditional foundation
The deepening economic disaster at home reminded this scribe of the words of a saintly old lady who said: "Tradition is the only ship of hope and security for our people in both calm and storm."
She held the belief that traditional farming and fishing would have ensured steady, sturdy and stable days for families throughout the archipelago. Mirrored against the shift to a money economy, it’s sad how tradition has slowly faded into history. Traditional farming and fishing have died, silently, too.
I probed her mind if only to secure some clarity in her vision. Said she, "The last time we had an economy was before the war. Our lifestyle may not be inundated with amenities, but we always have something to sell at the market for domestic and export purposes." She added, "Families had something even in for regular or incidental purchases." She noted that Japan bought everything from sugar to dry tuna fish to feed the larger population in Tokyo.
She was firm that had we gone back to basics or indigenous foundation, we would have improved upon local produce destined for export and domestic markets.
"We’ve had an historic relationship with our friends from the Land of the Rising Sun and it would have worked by seeking their assistance too." Opportunities abound to upgrade locally grown farm produce to the next level: small cottage industries in pickled, bagged, or canned food.
The assertion forced a romantic meandering on the "what might have been" had we held on to them. It brought back a quick journey through my younger days when most of my peers did some farm chores other than hunting. It was hard work from dawn to dusk.
Imagine arcane farming methods of swinging a machete all day long, chopping huge tañgan tañgan, powering and slamming a pick to uproot them to prepare a garden for root crops, fruits and veggies. I dreaded those days because they were hard ones, toiling the soil to plant the future meals of the family. However hard those days, it was a family endeavor that quietly spells "survival" now or never! It made many who endured the golden days better and stronger members of the community.
The farm chores ensured lessons for families: Honing the sweat equity that builds and strengthens honesty and skills acquisition on survival. It also strengthened the fabric of indigenous ethic, family unit and spiritual foundation, and sense of compassion. It included an affirmation of a sense of cultural values hailing from time-honored tradition; and, use of personal industry to earn our dues without government dependency.
Though farm chores were hard, we moved alongside our parents, learning the values of earning our dues. It instills a sense of honesty and steered clear from gaming the work of others who work the clock for their basic needs. We shared what we had and humbly made do with the rewards of hard work. Sadly, though, farm chores have faded into history, too.
"But after the war we became lazy and relied heavily on jobs provided by the naval administration," she lamented, adding, "it provided the more convenient means of bringing home the bacon than working the fields and being your own boss."
She related that change from tradition to a money economy isn’t necessarily good for the indigenous people who once were "very industrious." She laments the detrimental reliance on government and private sector jobs and how it slowly uprooted the indigenous people from their traditional foundation. It was a thoughtful journey in the shifting sands of change.