June 26, 2005
Reyes backs increasing public employees’ share
Describing the current retirement contribution system as “very lopsided,” a Retirement Fund official is inclined to favor reducing the government’s share, while increasing the employees’ share of retirement contributions. “It’s wrong math. If you take the entire government’s budget of $213 million, 24 percent [$35 to $40 million] of the entire personnel costs, which is at least 70 to 75 percent [of the total budget], goes to the retirement payment. It simply means that the government is very generous. It pays a lot for members’ retirement,” said Fund administrator Karl T. Reyes.
Bilingual confab pushes for expanded program
The 24th Annual Pacific Islands Bilingual Bicultural Association Conference for 2005 ended last Friday with participants from several Pacific countries outlining strategies for the expanded promotion of bilingual and bicultural policies in their respective jurisdictions. More than 70 public school teachers from Guam, Marshall Islands, Pohnpei, American Samoa, Chuuk, Kosrae, Rota, Tinian and Saipan attended the five-day conference, which had the theme “Language and Culture: To Survive or Not To Survive?” Cecilia Wase, a teacher from the Majuro Elementary School in Marshall Islands, said the republic sent a total of 15 delegates to the conference.
June 26, 2006
Unpaid tax rebates total $8M
The CNMI government is behind by at least $8 million in the payment of fiscal year 2004 tax rebates, according to Finance Secretary Eloy S. Inos. In the governor’s weekly press conference Friday, Inos reported that the amount was down from the estimated $15 million of unpaid rebates that were unpaid when the Fitial administration stepped in almost half a year ago. He expressed hope that the Finance Department would be able to catch up and get the rest of the FY2004 rebates released before the end of the fiscal year.
Govt funding to be issued on piecemeal basis
Owing to the government’s $32 million budget shortfall projection, funding for public programs would be issued on a piecemeal basis during the last quarter of the fiscal year, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial announced Friday. The governor said he had instructed the Office of Management and Budget to issue allotment notice to each government agency on a monthly basis, rather than on the usual quarterly basis, from July to September 2006. “We can’t issue a quarterly allotment advice if we don’t have the money to cover the entire quarter,” Fitial said. Antonio Muna, the governor’s special assistant for management and budget, said that the monthly allotment advice was expected to affect government operations within and outside of the Executive Branch.
June 26, 2007
April hotel occupancy lowest since ’92
Hotel occupancy in April and May were the lowest since 1992, due in large part to the roller-coaster changes in air service to the Northern Marianas, according to information provided by the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands this week. Average hotel occupancy from HANMI members was 49 percent in April, while May numbers showed an average occupancy of 53 percent for the month. The low occupancy is a direct reflection of the reduction in air seats out of Japan. The average room rate for hotels was as challenging as the occupancy numbers. March, April and May of 2007 reported average room rates of less than $90 per room. Ten years ago, the average room rate was $136 for the same period. This represents a $46 per room drop in rates.
Renewal of lobbyist contract hangs fire
The Fitial administration’s contract with its D.C. consultant is nearing its end, but it remains unclear whether the firm will remain on the local government’s payroll. Oldaker, Biden & Belair was hired to block U.S. legislation federalizing the local minimum wage and immigration. It is paid $90,000, plus approved expenses, for a six-month period ending on Monday, July 9, 2007. However, press secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said yesterday he was not sure whether the governor intends to renew the contract.