Flashback — June 2000 – June 2005


June 1, 2000

NMI sees growth in number of idle business permits
In the absence of a law that requires off-island investors to put up their businesses on the island in a given period after the issuance of their respective investment visa certificates, the Northern Marianas may soon witness an increase in the number of unused permits. While no government data pertaining to the official number of unused business licenses were immediately available, the Department of Commerce disclosed one banking company based in Guam had applied for and was issued a license to operate in the CNMI but is yet to put up a branch here. Citizens Security Bank has been issued a license to operate in the Northern Marianas since May 1996 but is yet to open a branch after having its permit sit idle for a little over four years now.

Increase in PSS budget means extra $20 million
The proposed 10 percent increase in the Public School System’s yearly budget appropriation could mean an extra $20 million for public education in the Northern Marianas. Given the projected $211 million CNMI revenues in Fiscal Year 2001, PSS would be entitled to $42.2 million for overall operations, according to a PSS budget history report. The figure is a far cry from 15 percent guaranteed appropriation as mandated by the constitution, or some $31.6 million.

Projected student enrollment for FY 2001 is targeted to reach 10,000 combining all 16 public schools on Saipan, Rota, and Tinian.

June 1, 2004

New prison needs more personnel
The Department of Public Safety disclosed Thursday that it would be needing additional personnel to man the new correction facility, which is due to be completed by May 2005. In a report submitted to Gov. Juan N. Babauta, DPS commissioner Edward Camacho said that, although new correction officers are now in place, the facility would be needing more when the prison facility begins to operate fully by next year. He added that the police department is in critical need of new officers as a result of losing law enforcers to schools, retirement, resignation, and termination. Camacho also said that the department is now working on a Just Compensation Program for DPS personnel.

DHS opens $9M IT project grant
Beginning last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is accepting applications for a $9-million Information Technology Evaluation Program available to all 50 states, including insular areas such as CNMI, Guam, and among others. The DHS Office for Domestic Preparedness said that the project is aimed at improving information technology in combating terrorism. It will be collaboratively managed and administered by the ODP by means of cooperative agreements. Chief Information Officer Steve Cooper said information technology is a valuable tool in the war against terrorism, and the program allows all state, local and industry partners to develop and explore new projects to fight the war.

June 1, 2005

New US wage bills ‘insensitive’ to the CNMI
The House leadership finds the recent introduction of two minimum wage hike bills in U.S. Congress “disconcerting” and “insensitive” to the CNMI. “We are concerned and alarmed by some of the U.S. congress’s move to impose a minimum wage that is much higher than wages in this region. It shows a complete insensitivity to the economic realities in the CNMI, especially if you take into account the fuel surcharge, the decline in garment industry, the looming pullout of Japan Airlines, among several other discouraging economic developments. So it’s very disconcerting,” said House leadership spokesman Charles Reyes Jr.
He said the House leadership, led by Speaker Benigno R. Fitial, hopes that concerned government agencies—Washington Rep. Pete A. Tenorio and administration-hired lobbyists—can communicate the CNMI’s concerns on the bills. The bills—H.R. 2429, introduced by Democrat Rep. George Miller, and S.1062, introduced by Democrat Sen. Edward M. Kennedy—seek to raise the minimum federal wage to $5.85 per hour beginning on the 60th day after the date of enactment into law; then $6.55 an hour beginning a year later; and $7.25 an hour, two years later.

TDHC execs eye more China flights
Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino chairman Michael Kwan and general manager Tom Liu disclosed yesterday that the hotel is negotiating with airline companies to bring in tourists from the Chinese capital in Beijing, which might possibly kick off by mid-July. The hotel executives also disclosed that TDHC will build a waterpark as part of further improving its facilities and attractions. They said the project is currently at the design phase. Kwan and Liu said that the hotel has been working with Century Travel and Tours in chartering flights from Beijing to the CNMI. The hotel would target businessmen and the upper middle class of Beijing as clients. Kwan and Liu also disclosed that the hotel’s sales team in China has been targeting big companies, which provide package tours as incentive for their employees and clients.

Saipan Tribune

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