Assessing NMI at forty


Though investment exodus has paralyzed the NMI since recent past, we retreat to a quiet corner disoriented, pondering, asking the inevitable: Why did this happen and is there anything we could do locally to neutralize vicious economic paralysis from a repeat of history?

Could we still hold unto suspect hope to see morning in the islands as we begin rebuilding our economic foundation painful as it may be? Could we see some leadership please?

This should be the focus over the next 40 years beyond convicting, commuting, and sending elected officials to federal penitentiaries, a humiliating chapter in our developmental history of so-called self-government.

Plebiscite: A mechanism is provided citizens to express their views, e.g., a plebiscite where they vote for or against an issue. It’s a direct expression coming from “we the people.” It removes disposition from the Legislature right into the hands of voters. Twice, the voters on Saipan shot down casino.

Yet, the elected elite trashed it as though it is solely its own to decide. Where’s your comprehension of political maturity? Isn’t the glaring and overwhelming voice of “we the people” sufficient for you to respect the democratic process? Or did you flunk your civics courses in high school as to blindly ignore the will of the people? Fodder for comedy of high school students Marianas-wide.

Stagnancy: Locally, the toxic Republican charge has done nothing but deepen the hardship in families throughout the NMI. Twenty-plus years of economic stagnancy or dystopia—where nothing works—frozen salaries that stayed the same while the cost of basic goods skyrockets like fireworks into the heavens.

Where did you park due diligence and vision? Or have you been using your outdated black and white television sets? Do you even know that paradigms and challenges have shifted in significant ways?

Poverty: Then there’s the quiet trophy of some 51 percent of employees falling under federal poverty income level. Wow! What trophy sinking the quality of life among villagers. Do you now understand why I have been advocating for some fully thought out plan of sort to move the needle of growth forward? Or do we acquiesce the absence of such a plan to incompetency in the disposition of major issues? Need the voters revolt to bring some sense of common decency into your cranium?

Appropriation: In plain simple English, pertinent constitutional provision says all public funds must be approved via legislative appropriation. This provision said what it said and didn’t say what it didn’t say. In other words, it didn’t grant legislative delegations the authority to appropriate funds.

In fact, all appropriations begin in the House of Representatives. Remember the funds handed the Settlement Fund but returned because it wasn’t appropriated? It finally had to be appropriated, right? Halo?

Goes to show the retardant political maturity right here at home! Do you see why the $400K for the MV Luta is constitutionally prohibited?

Pension Reduction: The NMI Constitution prohibits the reduction of pension or retirement pay but this administration decided to cut 25 percent of it detracting. It’s an admission that the NMI is financially stressed beyond description. But this setback didn’t grant this administration the authority to cut retirement pay. Though the issue is debatable it remains a constitutional mandate.

In less than two-and-a-half years when every penny in pension investment is spent retirees would instantly suffer from unsolicited poverty. No longer could they expect remittance of their bi-monthly pay to their bank accounts. It’s time to return to traditional subsistence form of lifestyle of farming and fishing.

The fund is owed some $789 million in “unfunded liability,” coming from decisions made by former governors to skip employer’s contribution since 1982. Is there a way the NMI could make good what it owes the program? Even with 15 more casinos there’s nothing up that alley. Now, could the NMI reinstate the 25 percent it illegally deducted from retirees’ paychecks? I’m listening!

Economy: The local economy peaked in the mid-’80s. When the feds denied the NMI control over its borders, the economy slowly declined and continuing in the same steady trip down south. For two years in a row, the NMI acknowledged budgetary shortfall of $9 million and $7 million, respectively. This while the archipelago wades in the red sea of deficit spending.

The NMI faces the end of CW workers by 2019. Would its efforts to train and educate more of its own ably meet the required number of professional and technical workers in private industries by then? There are 15,000 CW workers today. Do we have the reciprocal number to replace them? Isn’t self-realization another drawback among locals needing training and education to fill job vacancies three years from now?

Leadership: If self-government is a mantra, take another look if we have factually undertaken serious measures to reduce bloated government payroll and expenses. Or is it more a case of not spending because there’s nothing to spend? Do you see the absence of true north or leadership with a vision in this scenario? There’s none!

Paradigm Shift: The economy has tanked and continues to sink turning stochastic or probabilistic in unbridled fashion beyond our comprehension.

The likelihood of the visa waiver program ending sometime next year makes reviving the fragile tourism industry even more problematic. In fact, Homeland Security has begun tightening the visa waiver program for some 30 countries.

The combined setback requires, yes, leadership with vision and enthusiasm to challenge conventional wisdom. Uncle Sam isn’t sacrificing the security and safety of Americans because the NMI wants the back door for ISIS to slide into the country. Has so-called leadership considered the impending imposition from across the Pacific?

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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