Our economy is wheezing on its deathbed. Since it’s dying from economic malpractice administered by the quacks (non-economist economists), the cognoscenti here pretty much figure the CNMI is going to revert to the Pacific island mean. Folly, not hope, is the theme of our story.
A lot of good people here are going to find themselves unemployed, and, notably, unemployable. The feeding frenzy will get nastier as the only jobs to be had must be wrested from the hands of the overlords in the public sector.
Factor number one–and a factor that the non-economist economists are using as a lame copout– is industrial Asia’s economic woes. Intelligent planning (there is such a thing, believe it or not) would recognize that there’s actually opportunity in adversity. Specifically, tourists in Japan who are feeling the financial pinch will substitute cheaper vacations for more expensive ones. To the extent that the CNMI was a bargain destination, there was opportunity to hone this edge and carve out greater market share. The CNMI didn’t do that. Guam did.
Factor number two is the acrimony between us and Uncle Sam. Mixed in with this is that billion dollar lawsuit, a torpedo aimed straight at the local garment industry. The CNMI will be fighting this battle for years to come, I suppose. But the costs of the war may already be hitting us, given that institutions may start backing away from buying Saipan-made garments.
Factor number three is the coming war against business we’ll see here. There’s a bizarre attitude towards business in the CNMI. There is a lot of sneaky hatred and envy of businesses, and, believe me, we’ll see calls to bleed them dry here in the near future. I know one guy leaving here–a new member of the suitcase squad–who just got fed up with getting squeezed for bribes, and he, and his business, won’t be here to get squeezed any longer. Another business gone. More jobs, gone. And we’ll add a few more horror stories about doing business here to the heap, and it’s getting to be a mighty big heap.
So big, in fact, that the Commonwealth has built a whole new breed of enemy. Our traditional foes, the labor union types, are finding themselves allied with an unlikely breed: business types. These are the suitcase squad members who got cheated, stonewalled, squeezed, and ripped off a few too many times here, and they’re not exactly keeping quiet about it. We can’t blame that on Uncle Sam, on El Nino, or on Japan’s fiscal policy…the blame for that starts and stops right here.
The naive are asking “have we turned the corner yet?”
The more sophisticated are asking “it is totally too late now?” Well, I hope it’s not too late, but the situation is far worse than most people think.
Some think Japan will rise from the dead and will become our economic messiah. It’s a nice Easter time sentiment, but economic resurrection isn’t that simple. And, consequently, it isn’t very likely, either. Those who are waiting for the economic Easter bunny are going to be sorely disappointed.