I’m confused


I’m confused. The newly promised airline might have equated to more revenue. Also there is a fresh anticipation that revenues from the private sector (business gross revues and hotel occupancies) will increase. This will allow the CNMI to increase its budget for 2013. Why the sudden new economic stimulus in 2013? I’m confused as to what is creating this expected stimulus? There are no external forces that are creating this that I am aware of. What has CNMI government leaders done to project this economic stimulus? More importantly how will these unproven revenue sources be prioritized? Will government workers’ hours be restored to 80 hours? Government services have been cut for approximately 24 months due to austerity. In the meantime demands for these services have tapered off. So why restore government workers to 80 hours per pay period? Why not create a more effective and efficient government by reorganizing it to factor in this 20 percent savings permanently? Or is reorganizing the government to be effective and efficient not a priority?

The local utility corporation cannot pump drinking water into homes. This is considered a basic service in most developed communities. Electric power, a necessity in a modern society, is prohibitively expensive in the CNMI. The utility corporation appears to be having a difficult time paying its vendors in a timely fashion. These are significant concerns toward community development. Yet these concerns are exacerbated because the government does not appear to prioritize its utility own payments. Are government utility payments a priority?

The CNMI medical infrastructure appears to be near total collapse. Medical personnel seem to be leaving in droves with no plan on replacing them. Medical equipment is not being maintained nor replaced. Supplies are capriciously low. Is the CNMI medical infrastructure a priority?

The CNMI workforce still consists largely of contract workers. There appears to be no organized approach regarding immigration reform and building capacity within the workforce by the government. There are rumors propagated by local government officials that a large group of illegal aliens reside within the CNMI. Yet there appears to be little cooperation with the federal government to address this. Indeed there is a move to increase either the length of time contract workers can stay or to allow them to stay with some type of permanent status. In the meantime there are pitifully lackluster efforts by the government to improve the capacity of the local labor force. Immigration/local workforce capacity building has been a neglected issue for over five years. Will it become a priority?

The CNMI government employee pension fund is clearly in a state of bankruptcy. This is largely due to a self-imposed government funding embargo. The government is literally starving its pension fund to death. This will have devastating consequences on many levels within the community. This will put greater stress on the family system to act as a social safety net. The retired government employees have been abandoned by the government thus the family will need to step up to fill the void. Current government employees who are approaching retirement will suddenly have to abandon all retirement plans, change course, and stay in the workforce for years to come, finally retiring at a much older age and with far less money. Few governments would consider such shameless treatment of their present and former personnel. A government that swiftly and without remorse abandons its constitutionally mandated fiduciary responsibilities to its own elderly clearly will not prioritize its legal commitments nor its ethical obligations to others.  This will be something potential future investors will recognize.

So I’m confused. What will the CNMI budgetary plan of 2013 prioritize? One would think that such a small place with extremely limited resources, insignificant workforce capacity, and deteriorating infrastructure that the government leaders would cooperate and coordinate efforts to improve the current situation. Obviously some things will need prioritization. So I’m confused and curious. What will be the CNMI government leaders’ priority?

Juan Cruz
Austin, Texas

Juan Cruz Letters To The Editor
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