Whenever an unsettling issue appears in the horizon of my mind, the subconscious heads into the dark and torched land of hopelessness looking for answers while humming a sentimental tune as I move about my daily chores. I'd probe and analyze with different takes. I'd sleep on it and hum some more the next day. Then I set a timeline to resolve it forthwith.
Coincidently, a fitting tune came into an unrehearsed medley, Smile. I hummed it and pulled lyrics in what my faltering memory could offer. Indeed, it's hard smiling when something's gone terribly wrong. Or hear of sad tidings of next of kin and friends who have recently faded. It instantly takes you back to familiar playground you used to frequent together long time ago.
But time is never in anybody's hand. That being said, may I humbly declare never mind it all. Smile! Move on! It eases the pain and gives you the opportunity to reset your clock to move on. Like I told my daughters when their mom died in 1985, life goes on! Smile. There's no turning back the hands of time. Perhaps this is the reason He placed our heads atop our shoulders facing forward.
Throughout the day, I bumped into another lively tune, And The Band Plays On. Fitting in the sense that in spite of our travails with bankruptcy, we recoil with faint resiliency and move forward in the midst of devastation never before seen in our developmental history. But nothing is going to derail us from our daily obligations. We face and take the myriad tasks as they descend, pummeling every fiber of our mind as we tinker with survival.
Is the NMI really broke? Hope the answer is in the negative. But then everything around us confirms it, i.e., no money for retirees, hospital, Public School System, etc. Maybe we are broke after all. No sir! You didn't read it here. Can't ignore, though, the skepticism morphing into cynicism among everyday folks. But smile, it's not the end of the world and the “band plays on.” Have a good one!
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And so you've decided to run for office, faithfully placing your snout in the filthy arse of the red, green or blue veterans. With your candidacy on the line, let's explore rational discussion on reviving investments on the islands or have you something better than the critical and resolute review of the apocalyptic economic trauma at home?
Hybrid queries: Would you invest your family's lifetime savings or use family land as collateral to put up a new business here today? What are your chances of surviving the high cost of utilities? Would you invest in a place that flaunts race-based “equal protection”? What's your educated understanding of the Byzantine and stifling laws that are now in the books versus investments?
Would you push for more ill-conceived taxes amidst a woefully poor business climate? Would you have the gall to ask the administration for its socio-economic plans for your review? Or would you be in collusion with them to fan your own version of illusion and delusion? What's your perception on issues where local and federal policies collide or intersect?
Fiscal paralysis: The issue before you is one of fiscal paralysis when exogenous investments (private foreign capital) took an exodus from the islands in recent past. They brought with them over $5 billion to $7 billion of their money that was once recycled locally. How do you address this devastating mess? How do we shift the dark clouds of uncertainty where the focus of our people sifts through a blurred future of job insecurity, foreclosure of the first family home, retirees losing their pension permanently; scholarship funds contracting as a result of a larger revenue contraction; lack of funds for healthcare, among others?
None of these issues are easy but I'd like to hear your answers premised on reality. The task is analogous to the biblical Moses escorting the Israelis out of Egypt. Ours is literally economic slavery. Would your plans bring us to brighter tomorrows after these dark days in what's now our hellish hole?
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NMI's small businesses
It was in the early late '60s that I learned of small soba shops in Lali Fo'. I kept hearing how tasty the bowl of noodles was sprinkled with Spam or eggs in the two small shops. I finally had the opportunity to venture into it. There's something unique about it: It's family owned and sells soba, boiled eggs, soda pops, beer and cigarettes daily.
Gradually, more small businesses were established. The bulk of it is found in the hotel area in Garapan, from restaurants, gift shops to karaoke joints. Each offers a specialty from oriental cuisines to hip shirts, shorts and comfortable beach footwear. Interesting too that migrants from Japan, South Korea and elsewhere own most, it not, all of these small businesses.
Small as they may be, they've brought wealth into the islands. When they opened their doors, jobs were created for anyone who wished to work. They pay income and business taxes annually that go into the local treasury. It's money spent on basic services in the NMI.
As industrious as they may be, a lot of them have closed shop and headed elsewhere, taking with them their wealth while shutting down jobs as they leave island. These are jobs where local folks find the means to bring home the bacon.
Today, the means (jobs) are gone, including the bacon. I couldn't pin down how devastating this may be for the NMI. But our annual revenue was once a healthy $256 million per fiscal year reduced to $102 million, a whopping decrease of over $60-plus million. And so we must endure staring down Fiscal Cliff for quite some time to come.
Jay Leno: “In Chicago some anti-Mitt Romney protesters told reporters they're being paid to protest. They said they're being paid by Democrats to stand outside and chant anti-Romney slogans. Well, who says President Obama isn't creating any new jobs?”
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.