Aug. 13, 2001
NMIRF to maintain overseas investments
Despite the losses being incurred by the off-island investments of the Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund and the growing amount that the CNMI government owes the Fund, the Fund has no plans yet of liquidating its off-island portfolio to pay for annuities. This was stressed by Fund Administrator Juan S. Torres, who said in an interview Friday that due diligence requires him and the Board of Trustees to first exhaust all ways and means to find the money for its pensioners. “If push comes to shove, we will first have to sue the CNMI government to compel it to pay its obligations to the Fund. Of course, a lawsuit in itself is already a last recourse for us. We have already come to an agreement with the government and they have been keeping their end of the bargain,” said Torres.
Banks asked to invest more on housing loans
In fresh efforts to beef up the CNMI government's housing program, the Commonwealth Development Authority has started negotiation with private banks and financial institutions, encouraging them to intensify their long-term loan packages for homes. Board Chair John S. Tenorio said some of the banking institutions in the Northern Marianas have already pledged to upgrade their portfolio earmarked for long-term housing loans but only up to a limited amount. Mr. Tenorio explained that private financial companies normally look at loan agreements that stretch up to 20-25 years are too risky especially on the residential side due to prevailing impression that there is not enough market for housing units in the CNMI.
Aug. 13, 2002
CPA enforces tighter cost-cutting program
The significant slowdown in airport and seaport activities is forcing the Commonwealth Ports Authority to implement additional belt-tightening measures. CPA Executive Director Carlos H. Salas said, however, that the cost-cutting measures will not hamper airport and seaport operations nor will it affect safety and security programs. Salas explained that the cost-cutting measures will be instituted to sustain the ports authority’s effective management of all airports and harbors across the Northern Marianas on a 24-7 basis. Under the new austerity program, the ports authority will stop hiring new employees. This includes replacements for vacated positions.
USDA to assess damage to Rota’s farming sector
Following President Bush’s declaration of Rota as a major disaster area due to the destruction caused by typhoon Chata’an over a month ago, another federal agency-the U.S. Department of Agriculture-is set to conduct a damage assessment on the island’s crops this week. Aside from the aid expected from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, from where over $1.4 million in disaster assistance is assured for the island, Rota may also receive possible assistance from the USDA. Virginia Villagomez, Gov. Juan N. Babauta’s authorized representative, said a USDA representative stationed on Guam is arriving on Rota this week to meet with local farmers and the island’s resident director for the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Vicente Atalig.
Aug. 13, 2003
Babauta explains glacial pace in changing procurement regs
Although the administration has tagged the need to overhaul the CNMI government’s procurement process as a priority, Gov. Juan N. Babauta explained that implementing the needed changes is taking much longer than they would like it to be because of dilatory processes that are built into the system. “It’s inherent in the system. If there’s a problem, it’s in the regulations; if not in the regulations, it’s in the law.[and the process of inserting these changes] is the classic definition of bureaucracy. However, when you don’t [follow] that, you get accused of not following the regulations,” Babauta told reporters yesterday. Procurement processes that are bound by law can only be changed by the Legislature, which Babauta said takes time. “They [lawmakers] can debate issues for months on end.”
FEMA releases some $154K to utility firm
The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. said it is finally receiving actual reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses incurred on Rota during Supertyphoon Pongsona last December. CUC acting comptroller Ed Williams said FEMA has released over $154,100 in payment to the utility firm. Further, he said that based on his communication with Vicky Villagomez, the governor’s authorized representative on FEMA matters, the federal agency has also approved the payment to CUC for project worksheets totaling about $171,300.