Future of CNMI in the balance


I predict the CNMI government will be seeking bankruptcy protection under U.S. Code Title 11 in about seven years.  Rule of 72.  Mampos man “Codicioso.”  I do hope I’m wrong, but then again, given our laid-back attitude especially at problem solving, there is that possibility.

We’ve been a Commonwealth for 40 years, 40 years of struggling to survive amidst the many shortcomings we’ve been straddled with as well as the many factors we have no control over.  We lack natural resources, our land mass is way too small. We could lay Saipan on the San Mateo Bridge, anchorage to anchorage. That’s how small Saipan is. Our population tiny, we’re physically isolated from the world and main routes of commerce, we import most everything to include the bulk of our workforce and we’re bogged down with politics that not only challenge logic and common sense but predate our Covenant with the United States as well as our own Constitution.

In 1976, we chose a representative democracy like the United States. We therefore did not have to invent anything. All we had to do was selectively apply those concepts, which have survived the test of time in the U.S. and work within the confines of our relationship with our political partner. But we were doomed from the start. We gave the U.S. too much. We surrendered our sovereignty, to giving the U.S. rights which essentially allows it to do as it pleases without so much as a “mother may I” or in this case, a “partner, may I?” Why are we always giving away things that are precious to us? Our sovereignty, our Best Sunshine tax, our Best Sunshine-Kan Pacific “could have been” revenue, our million dollars for the swampy “Memorial Park,” our submerged land, our surface land, North Field, South Field, immigration, Pagan, etc.  Of course, I’m Monday morning quarterbacking now, but these are things to think about for the CNMI-Guam political negotiation, when it happens.  Everything is next time for us.  Polo ha ennao hasta otro biahe, or ta dekka ha ennao otro biahe.

This has to change. Tell the State Department that we’re inviting the U.S. for Round II negotiation, and this time, with a more educated, experienced and knowledgeable team.  Demand change. We need this if we are to have even the slightest hope for survival, economically, and, as a people. We’re not as young and stupid as we once were. The U.S. needs to stop its subversive abuses of the Northern Mariana Islands and its inhabitants designed and executed under its policy to retain control over Micronesia dating to 1947 as reported in the Solomon Report.

Locally, we need revenue. Just several years ago, our economy was thriving. Now we are poor-financially strapped. Plus, we got insulted by the U.S. over our lobbyist’s deeds. We also need to reduce our government’s liabilities as well as its size and cost. Let’s address taxing the real estate and our exclusive casino licensee. We need to revisit and change or remove our dumb and impractical Qualifying Certificate program, improve our government’s efficiency by relocating to more accessible and convenient, preferably co-locating similar agencies. Cut the countless legal counsels, boards, and familial influences, stop the recycling of politicians we know did virtually nothing other than collect their checks, smile and shake hands at social functions. In short, we need to grow up and fast!

We need to get back control of our immigration, and without condition. The sorry excuse of homeland security has to go, we all know that by taking over our immigration, the U.S. could force its hand on its expansion efforts in the Marianas as well as force us into submission with issues it deems critical for the U.S. And we know that the excuse of homeland security is about as lame as they come. Terrorists from Mindanao, Malaysia, Sulawesi, Timor, etc.?  “Illegals”? How? Where? Political asylum?  How did a Russian traveled from Moscow to Ada International Airport slip through Homeland Security “border” net?  The CNMI cannot be blamed for that slip up by DHS. Guam is the “hub” for the rest of us. And flights to Guam and Japan are thoroughly checked. We have no direct flights to Hawaii, SFO-Oakland, LA, Seattle, Chicago. New York, flying in from the Pacific region. So enough of the abuse, it’s time we work together as originally planned and as guaranteed by our own Covenant. It’s time for us to engage in practical self-governance. Sure, the U.S. said we made operational errors as immigration neophyte, but not now.

If we re-control immigration, we can avail ourselves of the human resources currently available in the CNMI, including CWs, get them into our workforce so they can pay taxes instead of working underground with shady business ventures formed under the shady cover of ownership by some unscrupulous and money hungry locals. They exist, all over the place. If Homeland Security is too worried about processing and deportation costs to even lift a finger, then please, surrender our immigration control. Perhaps surrender is too strong a word. So, okay, just return the control back to us.

We also need to update and improve our Constitution and Covenant, and bring to light the effects that the terms NMD and Article 12 have on us all. They’re both economically devastating. And change our legislature to unicameral and reduce membership. No? Why not? Compare our legislature to Guam’s with a population approaching 200,000 and has only 15 senators. Our legislature is bloated, to say the least. Common sense dictates that we do this. How many locals live in the CNMI? And, do away with the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office, as well. Do we really need a mayor to manage the uninhabited islands, and from Saipan? We already have DPL.  There’s no official residents up there, thus public lands. Squatters on public land without paying for the occupancy.

Last, but in this case, certainly not the least, there is a severely critical need to reduce the government’s fiscal liabilities which, to date, has surpassed the $700-million mark. How can we pay off this much debt, especially one which generates interest every year? Take a look at the land compensation issue, 3 percent interest on $100 million is $3 million on interest alone! To think that our Legislature squabbled over the $15 million exclusive (only one casino license for Saipan) franchise fee! And, why is Best Sunshine not being taxed? What about Best Sunshine’s deal with Kan Pacific? What’s the status of that deal now? The Japanese investors and the Chinese investors sure got rich on our back. You know, we lose on revenue. Say, Best Sunshine makes $2 billion in one shot, even at 1.00 percent tax, that’s a whole lot of government rescue money.  Probably more than the franchise fee.  Is it going to be like this every time?

So, we know that we have huge problems, not insurmountable problems but ones which have to be solved by those we elected into office. But, they have to do their job. Enough with the prancing around over building- and street-naming accomplishments. Solve the money problems so we can grow a survivable economy. Which reminds me, we are one commonwealth, not a conglomerate of independent islands, or counties. Three casino money, three municipalities.  One coffer.

Another thing. Ignorance of problems is not a solution. Therefore, those elected “ignoramous” who practice ignorance as policy need to be voted out of office. We’re running out of time but not out of options. Wake up and deal with reality. If you don’t, your new reality in a few short years will be many notices of default, foreclosures, bankruptcies, RIPO’s—lose the house, the car, disconnections, court defendants, crowded houses, and barracks due to unaffordable apartments, etc., for starters. Just look at CDA, CUC, CCHC, the car dealers, the banks, other moneylenders, the courts schedules, the newspapers. Lots of modern but unaffordable apartments. Lots of minimum wage earners, too.  Short on retirement money. And if the CWs leave sans replacements, “MAN MAGPO HIT—drastic reduction in buying customers, employees, and house/room renters. This will not be a game-changer, it will be a life-altering experience. Your choice!

Rudy M. Sablan

Contributing Author

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