Death knell

Posted on Sep 27 2019

With the huge majority of the CNMI workforce being forcibly ejected from the country in four days (or 34 days), it obviously does not bode well for the CNMI economy. Just who does benefit? First, you have to look at what happens when an economy loses a major portion of its labor force. Typically, it implodes. Trained labor at a price point affordable to small, medium, and large businesses takes time to replace. In a country like us, where the local population is not large enough to supply the shortage, it means the small businesses fail first, then the medium businesses fail, and sometimes even the big business do so. In our case, we don’t have any big multinational businesses operating here. Most of the small and medium ones will either close or move away without a sufficiently-sized and skilled labor force to continue their operation.

Who on earth would benefit if the economy implodes and collapses here in the CNMI? Who would like to step in and “save” the local economy? Who desperately wants massive, round-the-clock live- fire multi-force training on our next door neighbor’s island of Tinian? Who wants to bomb Pagan until it is totally uninhabitable like FDM? Who writes the paychecks for all of these: DoD, DHS, USCIS, and CBP?

Since the day the U.S. feds took total control over immigration into and emigration out of the CNMI, it has been a forgone conclusion. Who controls entry and exit to a country controls its labor force. Who controls a labor force controls that country’s economy. The U.S. has this little colony under its complete control and claims that we are self-governing as per the Covenant agreement are spurious and false. A poor people are a tractable people. Easy to manipulate. Easy to take advantage of. Willing to give up a lot to keep the family fed. People get poor pretty quick when their economy implodes and most of its businesses go out of business.

People look around and ask why is our economy going down? Why is our quality of life diminishing? Some blame the local officeholders currently in power, but when did these labor problems start? Have any of the local elected or appointed had control of immigration or the labor force on these islands since 2009 (10 years ago)? No, they have not. Who controls labor controls the economy. Look for those guys who pay the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Customs and Border Protection Division.

Apparently as many as 9,600 more or less workers will be out of status four days (or maybe 34 days) after you read this column. Some believe they will go back to the Philippines, Japan, China, Korea or Bangladesh and will shortly return to the CNMI after completing some paperwork. I have personally known about a dozen workers who left Saipan to “pick up” their CW certificate. Two thirds of them are still there after more than a year. The quickest one returned here in about two months. Businesses cannot stay in business without workers for two months to a year waiting on their workforce to hopefully show up. Without a workforce, or a way to hire and train a new one quickly, within days or weeks, they will fold up and go out of business. Even if a short extension of 30 days is granted it comes too late as most workers have already booked and paid for their flight home with non-refundable, non-changeable tickets.

Wake up. They want our stuff. They want the precious land that belongs to the CNMI NMDs.

Why Korea?

The CNMI relies on five countries to supply most of our tourists: China, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. This fiscal year, for the first time ever, China will be the No. 1 market, but only by a tiny margin. For the last six years, Korea has been the No. 1 market, producing the most tourists who visit here.
In contrast with the China market, which has grown very fast over the last few years, the Korea market has sustained slow, steady, sustainable growth year after year for decades. That means it will likely continue that growth. China has that ghost, called a visa waiver or a parole-in-place, that hangs over it. If that visa waiver is lost, which could literally happen overnight, the China market would dry up to a small percentage of its current size. China and Korea combined supply literally 90% of all the visitors, with all other countries combined only bringing in 10%. Japan, as an example, supplied less than 3% with only one month to go in fiscal year 2019.

Quickly you can see that the Korea market is vitally important to tourism in the CNMI. Tourism is our only significant source of income. Without it, and the workers needed to keep that industry going, our economy grinds to a halt. (See “death knell” segment above). Ours is a delicate economy, and remains viable only because of a delicate balance. Kick the props out from under one of our major supply countries and the whole thing collapses like a house of cards. A welfare check and a wait-in-line for food stamps is not a very good alternative to a steady paycheck and a productive job with growth potential. But it can disappear quickly in an industry as delicate as tourism. It doesn’t take much to make it crash.

If I were an emperor, we would be on a mad, desperate search for another symbiotic, employment-producing industry to add to the CNMI’s income list. The former is pretty unlikely, thank goodness, but the new industry is very possible. We just need to reach out, find it and induce it to come here to the CNMI. But until then…

We need those Korean tourists like the breath of life right now, and those Chinese tourists too and the much smaller but still important Japanese, Taiwanese, Hong Kong and even the two2 guys who came in from Lithuania.

A new offshore marketing representative is about to start work to keep Korean tourists coming here. Welcome them and their efforts.
Thanks for reading Sour Grapes!

“Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.”
—attributed to Benjamin Franklin

“My favorite thing about South Korea is the people—they are so kind and helpful.”
—Elana Meyers

“If you don’t walk today, you must run tomorrow.”
—Korean proverb

Bruce Bateman | Author
Bruce A. Bateman ( resides on Saipan with a wife, a son, and an unknown number of boonie dogs. He has owned and operated a number of unusual businesses and most recently worked as the marketing manager for MVA. Bruce likes to read, travel, tinker with bicycles, hike, swim, and play a bit of golf. He is opinionated and writes when the moon is full and the mood strikes.
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