Finance Secretary David Atalig said the implementation of austerity Fridays saved the government close to $500,000 per pay period.
Speaking during yesterday’s Rotary Club of Saipan weekly meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan in Garapan, Atalig said the CNMI will see its last austerity Friday this week, on Nov. 22, with the 80-hour work schedule resuming Nov. 24, Monday, following the issuance of Directive 2020-001.
“I support the lifting of austerity for payroll purposes,” Atalig said.
He added that while the work week has been restored, the government is still going to maintain austerity cost containment measures.
This means the government will still review every travel, every contract, and every purchase of over $2,500.
While the restoration of the 80-hour work week also means having to pay $500,000 per pay period again, Atalig believes that it is going to be “money well spent.”
“We want money in the people’s pockets so they can spend, so we can have business activity,” Atalig said. “I need business activities to happen so that I can get BGRs [business gross revenue] and collect taxes and so forth.”
The five-month long austerity put pressure on government workers in terms of spending, with the loss in income due to the limited work schedule.
“Knowing what we have coming down the pipeline, I am confident that lifting austerity will not really impede too much of our cash situation because of the activities that we may be looking forward to. But at the same time, we need our buying power to come back into the community,” Atalig added.
Last week, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres expressed appreciation to all government employees for their patience and understanding, and for their continuous service to the people of the Northern Marianas during the austerity period.