Revenue collection in October 2019 met the projected amount, according to the CNMI Department of Finance last week, and the numbers are on track to also hit the projected revenue for November.
At a press briefing led by Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios Thursday last week, Finance Secretary David Atalig noted that revenue projections for fiscal year 2020 were so far met in October and that the November trend is showing similar numbers.
For November, which is the first month of fiscal year 2020, Atalig said, “We…needed to collect $18.5 million to be on target, based on our annual projections for fiscal year 2020. We’ve exceeded our collections for the first month.”
“We are [now] into November and the trend is still looking consistent to how we collected on October,” he added.
That’s great news as far as lifting the austerity measures that the CNMI government has been implementing, including work-hour cuts.
Atalig said that, based on collection numbers for November 2019, the government can more safely make a decision to discontinue the austerity measures that were implemented in fiscal year 2019 as a result of Super Typhoon Yutu’s devastation on Tinian and Saipan.
“…We are looking forward to a good month based on our projection and, based on [those numbers], we will then evaluate…if the government should go off austerity,” he said.
Atalig noted that the $233- million budget for fiscal year 2020 was set without austerity in mind; however, the government also has obligations to pay from previous fiscal years.
“…This keeps cash flow tight and, although we are collecting, we have obligations from previous fiscal years to pay,” he said.
The Torres administration noted in a statement in early October 2019 that revenue collections in the first few months of fiscal year 2020—specifically the first quarter—would likely not be enough to lift austerity measures since the first quarter of every fiscal year usually yields relatively lower collections.
“…The current collection rate is not enough to lift the current austerity measures within the first quarter of fiscal year 2020,” the administration had previously said. “Because revenue collections remain a concern as we enter the new fiscal year, the administration will continue its 72-hour work schedule for the first quarter in order to monitor cash flow, continue essential public services, and prevent furloughs.”
Atalig earlier blamed the financial crunch on the significant recovery costs for Super Typhoon Yutu, a loss of economic activity from businesses affected by the typhoon, low tourism arrivals, and variable costs of medical referrals, healthcare, and public safety.
He previously noted that the CNMI government was in deficit of $89.9 million at the start of fiscal year 2020.