With the economy still reeling from the effects of Asia’s financial crisis, the Coastal Resources Management did not receive any permit application for a major investment project in the Northern Marianas from January to May 1999.
The absence of any major investment left CRM with minor projects to approve — from the construction of volleyball poles on the beachside in Dai-Ichi Hotel, establishment of barracks, parking and toilet facility on Tinian, trimming of trees in Nikko Hotel to filming activities of various groups.
As tourism officials struggle to get back the lost market share in Japan, various Japanese companies flocked to the CNMI to film their movie and television projects. CRM gave some 103 permits, mostly to Japanese companies in the five-month period of 1999.
So far, only the government’s construction of some 133 houses for a homestead in Marpo Heights, on the island-municipality of Tinian, is the biggest construction project recently approved by CRM.
“It is just the sign of the times. We will not see any improvement until the economy fully recovers,” said Martin Castro, CRM permit manager. In fact, many of the apartment and condominium buildings already constructed are still empty after many Korean, Japanese and American businessmen fled the CNMI after filing bankruptcies as a result of the decline in the tourism economy.
Despite the plunge in prices of real estate properties on the island by as much as 90 percent, investors are still wary of investing in the Northern Marianas.
Since Asia’s economic crisis begun in July 1997, many of the major hotel projects already approved by CRM have not been implemented including the $65 million Westin Resort Saipan.
One of the few recent major construction activities in the recent months was the $25 million DFS Saipan Garapan Galleria project, which was planned long before the island’s tourism economy was battered by the regional crisis.
In 1998 covering the January to June period, the Northern Marianas did not really have any additional major investment although CRM approved a number of projects, which include Silver Resort Hotel, Tinian Power Plant expansion, Yeung Commercial Bldg. and Uno Moda Garment Factory.
Again, some 74 filming activities have been approved by CRM during the six-month period in 1998.