The 2021 Pacific Mini Games may remain on Saipan provided that a funding scheme will be devised to consider the serious cash flow problems the CNMI government is experiencing.
“After going over the Pacific Games Council’s proposal, we believe that we can reasonably host the 2021 Pacific Mini Games in the CNMI for the proposed $3-million budget if given the opportunity to fund the amount through a payment plan that considers the current economic and fiscal conditions of the CNMI, as we recover from a devastating typhoon season,” Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said in a letter went to Pacific Games Council president Vidhya Lakhan last week.
Torres, just a couple of months ago, announced that the CNMI government was withdrawing from its commitment for the Commonwealth’s hosting of the quadrennial event to focus its resources to the recovery efforts from Super Typhoon Yutu that hit Saipan and Tinian late last year.
Upon learning the host nation’s decision, Lakhan and PGC executive director Andrew Minogue flew to Saipan and had discussions with government officials and other stakeholders. The visitors then proposed to scale down the Pacific Games just to keep the event on Saipan, suggesting to hold six sports instead of 12 and decreasing the budget from $8 million to $3 million. The PGC gave the CNMI government about a month to decide.
Torres eventually had a change of heart, citing the importance of the Pacific Mini Games to the people of the CNMI and the entire Pacific.
“Gov. Torres and Lt. Gov. Palacios remain steadfast in their belief that athletics in the Pacific is a way of bringing people from around the region together in the spirit of competition and promoting a healthy lifestyle through the celebration of sports and the human spirit. We know this event is a great way of fostering our youth to be more active and engaged so that they can become better citizens when they eventually become leaders in their own right,” said Press secretary Kevin Bautista.
“This decision is to the benefit of our athletes who have taken the time to share their concerns. We will continue to uphold that commitment because we believe it transcends the Games itself and provides a lasting impact on our community as a whole. But we believe that it is prudent to be cognizant of our financial challenges,” he added.
Meanwhile, Minogue said the PGC acknowledged the CNMI government’s concerns with the funding of the Games and they will do their best to come out with a plan that will work for both parties.
“Payments (for hosting and other related expenses) don’t start for many years after the bid is won and in the overall scheme of the total Games budget are miniscule. I think the governor wants to know the likely overall cash flow needs between now and the Games. We will help develop a plan that delays as much of this expenditure as possible to the last year,” Minogue said.
“The governor wants to continue the dialogue with PGC. PGC will work cooperatively with the governor to see if we can reach a mutually satisfactory outcome,” he added.