Evidence-based expansion


Plans are now rolling to build BSI’s integrated casino project that begins in public land in Garapan. Such project should be restricted to Garapan. Any expansion must be “evidence-based” with active participation of the indigenous people on any additional use of their public land.

In other words, let’s see what the results are after the initial BSI project is in operation for at least five years. If its economic contribution is positive then there could be room to deliberatively discuss expansion. That someone spouts through the media of the need to expand tourism isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. Nah! Inclusion of the indigenous voice is a must!

Must the indigenous people whimsically or forcibly accept at face value someone else’s view of development? Must not the indigenous people be active participants, using our prism as the gauge to roll or hold? Don’t you think we are equally mindful of the future of posterity in everything that happens here? Such egregious vacuum of alienation must cease and desist!

Must investors persist treating indigenous sentiment as cogs in the greater scheme of things? How do you think we feel as permanent hosts of these isles being shoved aside, as though our sentiments are something that could be scrapped instantly?

If things work right, casino should help the tourism industry. The view that tourism would become the single economic engine here is farcically shortsighted. We’ve seen how the Asian financial crisis nailed the NMI to its cross.

It’s a fickle industry, as crispy as dry marshland reed. It breaks easily. When it cracks into instant derailment do we have anchor investments to back up the losses? I mean other than grand promotions of menial jobs, could we hear articulation from the voice of geniuses upstairs that it’s otherwise?

Indeed, I’ve stood in and out of casinos between Reno, Vegas, and Atlantic City. I was showered heavily by neon lights that flash like rainbows through the night. I’ve seen big time entertainment even in non-casino top gun nightclubs in Tokyo and elsewhere. It’s good quick trips if you’re rich. I’m not and never will be. Otherwise, I’m good with beer, sashimi, and friends along the shores of home.

Proponents of big time casino gaming would spout jobs for hundreds. It’s a feel-good temporary refuge. How about buckling down to whether it brings major strides in the livelihood of casino employees and other workers? In brief, would casino employees be salaried the usual minimum or real wages? The latter includes inflation to help employees. This equation must be addressed and resolved in any discussion.

In discussing job opportunities, what are the requirements of higher paying jobs beyond working as dealers, bellboys, chambermaids, gardeners, and janitors? What percentage of new trainees is likely to move into the higher echelon? What courses could they take at NMC to give them upward mobility and would their employer generously pay for tuition costs? Otherwise, it’s mostly menial jobs!

Culture of facelessness
When policymakers no longer listen to the people they represent, you and I, so they understand our ideas and concerns, they voluntarily enter the next stage: the culture of facelessness.

Perhaps some meant well but then how could they simply employ arrogance when, e.g., twice we said no to casino? Maybe they think they are smarter than any of us or better than any of us and that’s why they decided for us an issue of magnitude riddled with shortsightedness from the outset. They had to admit in court that they violated the Open Government Act! They lied!

Recently, news reports (Saipan Tribune, page 13 of Feb. 18th) detailed missed revenue projections and expectations in Connecticut and New Jersey that led to the closure of at least four casinos in the latter. The promotion of bigger casinos was seen as an attraction but failed by huge margins.

Several more casinos would open in Macau while two just opened in Manila. Coupled with the purging of corruption by the president of the Republic of China barring the transfer of huge sums of money from the mainland, this completely slammed the brakes on the very window where the triad makes its millions. The NMI would have benefited from it. But it’s gone!

One of the issues that are seriously considered is basic infrastructure—in this case an affluent community—whose money could support the industry when outsiders fail to come to the island. With the rising tide of bankruptcy would you honestly call the CNMI an affluent community? Eh, some intellectual integrity is in high demand on this score! Imposing the culture of facelessness isn’t the answer either!

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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