The fatal price of progress


Our people have started feeling the shock of their lives when a major economic shuffle crash-landed here in recent past.

In Garapan, foreigners loaded with money have been buying house and property in the area. New owners evict local tenants so they could rebuild the place. Most won’t be able to return as a result of the new increase in monthly rent.

Owners want casino employees or those in the middle-income bracket and above. It displaced just about every local tenant drowning in the filthy swamp of poverty income level and below.

Indeed, the free enterprise system is in full bloom. It is good for landowners but bad news for tenants who have been evicted. It’s a highly disruptive change and could be the initial sign how locals would be priced out on most everything.

Sadly, though, this is the price of unbridled growth half-cocked visionaries never saw when they rammed casino down the throats of “we the people” despite our voting against it twice. We’ve started falling off the ship. Do we now hop on a small boat to wave the iceberg of destruction to the side?

Perhaps the casino cabal could explain the price of progress in simple English over professorial fumbles riddled with inconsistencies, inadequacies and lack of clarity.

The sheer hardship finding a new family dwelling is difficult enough, not to mention constantly checking how far a dollar could stretch against the new monthly rent. Then there’s the new setting for kids whose school may require moving to another campus.

Chenchule`: Would the elected elite lend a hand on this issue? Their silence is rather deafening. Magoo related that the Lulu` Boysis are “too busy collecting chenchule` (money) from their sugar daddies, declaring “heard nothing, saw nothing, don’t know anything.’”

Wow! And you’re donning the collar of office as representatives of the people? Are the troops dazed in ignorance or is it the dumb politics of elite condescension? Which is which?

Denañg Magellan related that she too wants to seek help. “But da boysis only accept real cash chenchule`”. Try if they’d accept food stamps coupons!

A lot more of the critters of social evil would be marching in such as drugs, gambling addiction, prostitution and broken families over the long-term. Is this the price of progress for the “we few” and our future as displaced permanent hosts?

Exodus: Puerto Rico is strapped with a $74 billion deficit as 400,000 of its people take an exodus to other states in search of greener pasture.

The experience is the same here. Remember when over 3,000 of our own joined others in an exodus searching for opportunities elsewhere? The choice is to stay behind and help your family or leave to help your own.

Obviously, this brings into focus the financial posture of the CNMI: cumulative deficit, obligations and the strength of its revenue generation. So far we’ve read of a $471 million deficit excluding long-term debts. Would the NMI resort to bond flotation like Puerto Rico did years ago? It looks like a convenient path but one helluva a dangerous route, isn’t it?

Labor issue: The NMI lacks the conviction to plan for its future. Most everything “temperamental” is embraced as its latest fad for its obvious lack of leadership.

This situation has crash-landed in the lack of meaningful opportunities even for returning scholars. Even those with advanced degrees have steered clear of what used to be home or paradise.

The exodus of nearly 4,000 of our own some eight years ago translates to less warm bodies for job openings here.

Unbridled growth isn’t the path to follow. But in the absence of a fully thought-out plan it equally raises the issue of leadership that is grandly missing in this equation. The que sera syndrome isn’t the answer either!

Sentimental: Promotion and graduation exercises come around this time of year. We see the happy faces of our kids who made it through junior and senior high schools. Congratulations!

The event brings back melancholic memory of yesteryears. My grandkids talk about flower leis for the occasion. I remember juggling which of my two old shirts (colorless after a year of constant washing) would fit the evening exercise.

Kids these days have safety net like school breakfast and lunch program. We didn’t and had to make do with faucet water. Yep! You make pit stops on the closest drinking fountain between classes.

Most couldn’t believe my literal trip up the mound of below abject poverty. Those were the good old days when food gathering from the farm and the sea occupied most of our days. But we were happy and contented with what little we had years ago, sticking to rugged indigenous work ethic.

With the steady hands of our parents we learned how to earn our dues and an appreciation of the value of the dollar. Yes, I’ve had my share of menial jobs just to bring home a quarter so mom could buy canned tuna or sardines for the family dinner. Back then a can of tuna was about 20 cents. It feeds the entire clan!

Our traditional lifestyle has kept most working folks highly productive, be it farming or fishing. Food gathering is doubled down at sea either at dawn, through the night, or dusk. It was an entire family activity.

I really miss the camaraderie among kids walking to and from family farms after school. We’d part and work on chores. It includes weeding between rows of plants to feeding farm animals at dusk. We’d carry firewood on our tired shoulders and head home. We’d tidy up, eat dinner, and kneel for rosary before hitting the books.

“Those were the days my friend I thought would never end.”

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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