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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reinvestment: Anybody?

Faithful continuing students of economics are fully aware of what healthy investments do to countries worldwide. We even meticulously tread where investments have gone from nearby Asian neighbors and across the country, which country gets more of it and why.

Across the fruited plain, “Technology hiring is a big contributor for growth in the Bay Area and Raleigh while Texas cities, Oklahoma, and Salt Lake are benefiting from strong oil and gas activity. The rebound in manufacturing helped to land Detroit in the top ten while healthcare continues to thrive in Phoenix.”

San Jose, California leads investment as the capital of Silicon Valley and has a large concentration of tech-related jobs in high-technology engineering, computer, and microprocessor companies. This year it created some 64,000 new jobs.

Houston, Texas, created about 165,000 new jobs. It is "likely to lead in terms of job creation because of its diverse economy and growing sectors such as energy with oil and gas, transportation with increasing air traffic and the port of Houston with booming export activity, and health care. After 2011, the job growth in the Houston Metro area is likely to rise 2 to 2.5 percent annually."

Then there’s Austin, Texas, which established 50K jobs this year. It has experienced "high private-sector employment gains for 84 of the past 100 months, earning it the ranking of a top market in the United States for long-term growth," according to PRWeb. The city is expanding its tech sector and "having the University of Texas there is a tremendous asset," Bernard Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, told Kirk Ladendorf at Statesman.com. Eight other cities came close behind as they got rid of more taxes, fees, strangling regulations, and other impediments that raise the cost of doing business at home.

This is exactly what the CNMI must use as a model. It needs to find out what San Jose and Austin did that lured in more investors than other places. But this task begins by our returning to the drawing board to repeal punitive and counterproductive policies that have forced economic contraction in substantive ways.

In short, we must create a healthy investment climate for investors to begin looking at these isles as their permanent home in lasting partnership!

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Canoe of Tears

However the differing views in the election results, what issue(s) forced the repudiation of Republicans is clear: call for impeachment (corruption) and the dire need to fix the economic meltdown. Other issues include the impending bankruptcy of the Retirement Fund, Medicaid, medical referral, underemployment and unemployment, and CHC’s likely loss of millions of dollars in Medicaid and Medicare funds if major deficiencies aren’t fixed.
All these issues collide with the dire straits of families throughout the islands. Most voters walked to polling places with lips dripping with vile due to the failure of this administration on nearly every front, especially family pocketbooks. They aren’t ready to repeat with failure!

Even more troubling is the fast spreading view among our children graduating from college this year, saying skip the islands for at least another decade. “Not ready to ride aboard the NMI’s Canoe of Tears.” Thus, most have opted to do professional studies for the next two years or so. Would they ever return when jobs and opportunities abound in the U.S. mainland?

Somehow we’ve lost it all. Is there hope ahead? Or would others hop on the CNMI Canoe of Tears and head out of the Tanapag Harbor? If they did partake in the obvious brain drain, would they ever return home? What would be compelling reasons to come back home?

If the economy remains in triple depression, most would stay where opportunities grant them the perfect environment to raise their children in a decent setting and opportunities for continuing education. It would be a whale of loss to the islands losing its best minds so triggered and nurtured by a runaway economic meltdown this administration failed to resuscitate. There goes our investment in the education of our children!

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Economic uncertainty

Eyeballing the economy because of the lack of a set of plans doesn’t grant policymakers the appropriate tool to use as a guide formulating constructive laws to spur investments. It turns the issue into a moving target, completely rudderless and bouncing around heedlessly in a sea of uncertainty.

It relegates projecting revenue generation solely to “actual” collection versus the opportunity to estimate what the CNMI could reasonably expect in revenues. It compromises putting an organized fiscal plan that includes amortizing revenue to retire some $2.6 billion in debts that doesn’t include deficit spending or future debts on the pension obligation bond.

This mindset does nothing to grow the local economy, given all the uncertainty found upon a pile of uncertainties under this administration. It means a totally compromised economic future for our children. Nobody is there to provide leadership on this vital score. Hello, anybody home?

Island economies are difficult in the sense that it’s resource-poor, thus the extra effort required of planners to think almost completely outside the box. For all we know, perhaps it’s time to revert to farming and fishing—sectors that did very well before the war. It seems a treasure we’ve ignored for so long. It’s called economic diversification.

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John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of Department of Public Lands.

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