A curious thought occurred to me the other day. If the
CNMI government were to place an extended personals-styled
ad to attract foreign investors, I think the ad would have
to run something like this:
“Small Western Pacific Island territory in search of
wealthy foreign businessmen and corporations for investment.
Must be willing to put up arbitrary $100,000 initial
security deposit without questions or complaints. Money will
earn no interest and will only be returned upon the
dissolution of the business, if ever.
“Suitable candidates cannot own land. Must lease only
temporarily, for a maximum of 55 years, regardless of the
amount of capital invested. Prospective investor must also
be open to possible lawsuits under a local constitutional
provision often ruthlessly exploited by an extremely
aggressive local mainland American attorney.
“Must be willing to let local politicians and
bureaucrats mess with his workforce, dictating who he can
and cannot hire, how many nonresident employees he is
allowed to have, and how long they can remain in his
employment (currently a maximum of three years).
“Considered applicants must be prepared for abrupt
shifts in local governmental policies. Candidates must also
be willing to accept blame for all sorts of problems during
“If running a restaurant or nightclub, must be
agreeable to possible price controls and all sorts of
bureaucratic inspections and meddling from unkempt,
beetle-nut chewing local health inspectors from the
department of sanitation, who are often on a power trip.
“All prospective developments may be subject to a two
percent developer’s tax and approval by various government
agencies, including (but not limited to) the Coastal
Resources Management office, the Department of Environmental
Quality, Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Commerce, CUC,
the resurrected Zoning Board, Building Safety Code
Division–you name it.”
Oh, and if the foreign investor intends to lease public
land and create a world-class development project, look
forward to being sued by the likes of Stanley Torres and
When you consider all the barriers to entering the CNMI
market, it is no surprise that real estate prices have
collapsed and foreign investment has come to a complete
halt. We can thank the local government for that. They did
not make the Asian financial crisis any easier; in fact,
they only made it much worse.