Disastrous contraction


Our financial engine has been sputtering since it took a slide into economic contraction in recent past. It’s a tough fiscal situation forced by storms and exit of Nippon investments, the latter the heaviest in terms of economic loss.

This has piled into a $14-billion debt that would take time to clear, if at all. It has forced the administration to hold an outreach program (June 26) to explain the deteriorating financial posture of the NMI. For now, everybody is cutting work hours, including the library.

As financial experts in and out of government attempt to figure our fiscal posture, there’s equal intuition we’re into a colossal fiscal mess. Must bring out the entire nine yards to figure out where we stand financially.

While we struggle with recovery, grateful that FEMA reimbursements would grant us some room to regain our footing, however protracted it may be. Unfortunately, this doesn’t cover loss in the exit of Nippon investments.

The huge loss must have sent Da Boysis pondering, “What is north?” Do they understand the implications and are ready to contribute positively or is it another issue relegated conveniently to the usual disorientation of “not yet, already?”

I’ve looked critically to see if there’s anybody following close behind to serve even as temporary cushion. Yes, there are other investments but not as strong as Japan’s, the wealthiest country in the Asia-Pacific.

Reiterating, it is equally troubling Da Boysis’ misgivings on significant socio-economic issues that turn into hardship at the village level as a result of official ignorance and negligence. When would this humiliating forte fade into the sunset?

Is it hard coming to terms with the fact that unless there’s resurgence on investments there would be less revenue to sustain current services? It’s within the realm of fiduciary duty, isn’t it? Hmmm! Da Boysis are snoozing at the wheels while occasionally uttering a line in a familiar folk song, “where seldom is heard….”

Starvation: Reportedly, revenue collection is slow. Well, with nearly 15,000 employees earning “starvation income” in wages and salaries, it’s unrealistic and illogical to expect higher tax collection.

This has contributed to the deepening economic contraction that has descended all over the CNMI archipelago. It isn’t poised to improve and not when work-hours have recently been reduced to 72 hours. Any further contraction could bring this number down to 64 hours.

Hope the situation improves so we don’t engage furlough and reduction-in-force as we move forward. Starvation income is insufficient to even meet basic family needs. Imagine the hardship employees will have to endure if hit with additional work hour reduction.

Such imposition compromises the family’s ability to pay obligations like the first family home, car, healthcare, clothing, etc. Shouldn’t this be the focus of attention by our men of wisdom on Da Hills of Saipan?

Hardship: The cost of living on Rota is about 40 percent higher than here. Nearly every basic item is flown in by air, given the lack of surface transportation that would have eased the cost of basic goods.

Most employees are earning starvation income of between $15K and $18K per year. Less 40 percent and the employee must scramble stretching every penny in hopes of making it to the next paycheck.

The livelihood of the people is in dire straits. The issue has reached state level, thus the need for intervention from Da Hills of Saipan.

As it is, some 20 families have left the island in recent months for Guam, Hawaii and U.S. mainland. It’s forced by the lack of job opportunities at home to earn decent living. It’s the lack of economic opportunities that has paralyzed life in our southern neighbor.

Family relocation would continue given that it’s hard working at home, turned hellish by mind-numbing economic contraction. Apparently, nothing works, premised in the fact that there’s simply no plan from Da Hills of Saipan to trigger resurgence of investments. Leaving home is the only option!

It’s a critical issue of leadership that seemed to have been ignored and neglected for one reason or another. But we’re talking of the livelihood of families left to fend for their lives. Didn’t you promise better quality sometime last year? Why would you shirk your fiduciary duty now?

It calls for leadership, a scarcity these days only found in dry ink in the pages of newspapers. The lights are on but is anybody home?

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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