Last week I discussed several ways we can develop a prosperous economy if we are willing to work at improving our tourist industry and by cultivating our farmlands and by harvesting our oceans. We will never be a manufacturing country nor even do assembly work on a major scale. We are a rural community and must cultivate and build on that image.
In tourism we cannot compete with Guam who has many more attractions. But we can show our tourists what a rural community feels like. For example, how many tourists from large cities ever see cows, pigs, chickens, and goats? How may of them ever get to stroll through the countryside and enjoy the joy and beauty of nature? Do we offer any tours to farms? Why not? We have all of these and should sell them to our tourists. Guam doesn't do any of this.
In addition to their larger population Guam has large military bases to supplement their economy. So how do we go about developing a prosperous economy? We export and fill their needs. They will not have to import from a long distance as from America or from Korea. We are neighbors and only less than an hour away. Our fruits and produce are fresher. Add to our exports value added products. Yes, there is a large market waiting just minutes away.
Picture this scenario: farmers and others who own farmlands begin to till the soil and begin growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables. We muster up our children and relatives and motivate them to help with the farming. Also fishermen begin to seriously harvest our surrounding ocean. Some of us who are more into development begin to take these locally grown crops, fruits and fish and begin to develop value added products. Imagine this happening on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, hundreds of local citizens working and producing local products. Now what do we do with all these goods? We ship them to Guam! And import dollars!
Some of our older citizens remember when the military planes came to our islands from Guam and bought thousands of pounds of our fresh vegetables and fruit. The planes stopped coming a long time ago and so did our desire to plant. But the need for our products is just as great as before. Now we have to solve the problem of transportation to Guam from Saipan, Tinian, and Rota for these thousands of pounds of our fresh goods.
Recently a new airline started on Saipan for transporting cargo to Guam from Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. It is called Arctic Circle Air and its purpose is to build a cargo bridge between the islands. It is prepared to carry any kind of goods, not just fruits and vegetables. The airline also uses the name of Marianas Harvest, hoping to convey the feeling of goods produced in all of the islands.
One of the main functions of Marianas Produce is to motivate farmers to grow fruits and vegetables for export to Guam. To date it has made several shipments with favorable responses. However, sad to say, some farmers are slow to react, but hopefully they will eventually. In addition to shipping produce fresh Marianas sweet shrimp, fresh-not frozen-pork is being targeted for export also.
I repeat that we are not poor but are rich because of the fertile soil and bountiful ocean. We must cultivate them. The continuing free handouts we keep receiving from the federal government keeps stealing our dignity and pride. We become hungry beggars unwilling to work. Let's stop it!
I could go on and on raving of the potentials we have to create a prosperous community. There is only one ingredient lacking-the will to succeed. Our fathers had it. I know my father and mother worked hard all their lives. We were not rich but my parents earned every cent that came into our house. We never were hungry. And there were no food stamps. We worked or we didn't eat.
Look at the number of families here receiving food stamps! Look at the number of children going to school with little or no breakfast! Look at the number of people being fed by the Salvation Army. Why? Why are these things happening on our beautiful islands when they do not have to happen? Where is our pride? We are not poor but a bit on the lazy side.
Yes, I am a fanatic about what we have done to ourselves. We are on a path of self-destruction. But there is a rainbow over our heads. Let's lift our eyes and see it. But we must first bend down to plow our fields and fish our ocean. We truly have acres of diamonds under our feet.
To learn more how the cargo air bridge can help us succeed, write to Tony Pellegrino at email@example.com or call 287-8310. To ship any cargo on the Arctic Circle Air airline, please call Paul Zak at 287-4569 or the company at the airport by calling 670-288-8877. It stands ready to assist.
This is a community project in which all of us must participate in or we all lose. We are constantly inviting foreign investors. But do we own any shares of what they finally build? However all of us are invited to invest in Arctic Circle Air and become part-owner of the entire operation. Call for more information.
Become a part of the rebuilding of our prosperity. The more products we export, the more money we import. Which will it be? Do we work and rebuild our economy or do we dig ourselves deeper into poverty? It is our decision!
Do we ever ask ourselves why our nonresident employees work so hard and are so anxious to remain here? Is it because they appreciate the American Dream of hard work and believe that it leads to material rewards better than most of us who are citizens? I often hear about the amazing farming abilities of the local Chinese farmers on our islands. Recently I read an article about farming in Hawaii and guess who were the featured outstanding farmers? Non-American farmers! What does this say about our attitude toward helping ourselves? Farming is a proud profession. Without farmers, what would we eat?
Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I'm a great believer of luck and I find the harder I work the more of it I have.” And Henry Ford added: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” My favorite is: “TEAM means Together Everyone Achieves More.”
Instead of being united islands, we have become divided. A house divided against itself will surely fall. It is not too late to repair the damage we have done to ourselves. I have a plea to our legislators. To all the returning and especially new legislators: Please go through your districts and motivate our people to begin repairing our community. Encourage us to plant our fields and fish the ocean both for ourselves and for export. We need your encouragement. In conclusion, there is no one who can or will help us but ourselves!
We need to export more than we import and now we have the opportunity. We must import dollars and export products grown and made by us. A cargo bridge has been built to transport all that we can produce to our great market, Guam! Yeah, let's do it! What are we waiting for?
And above all keep the smile on our faces. A smile expresses that all will be well. Have a great week.
Pellegrino is a longtime businessman in the CNMI and is the former president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce.