Juggling fiscal resources


The fiscal difficulty of the CNMI government deepens. It has started to haunt us miserably too. What’s the root cause of the growing financial mess? The fiscal monstrosity started 36 years ago when we implemented the retirement program.

Not only was it a woefully generous program, half-cocked politicians decided it was perfectly fine to feed off the hog’s back. In other words, they piled it with obligations that have nothing to do with memberships’ service contribution. We did it heedlessly as though we own oil fields. It is now bankrupt or broke! It’s also under life support in the fiscal ICU of the Department of Finance.

The unfunded liability—money the settlement fund must pay until the last member expires—is around $779 million. Makes you wonder how do we deal with it in light of the fact that we can’t even find sufficient funds to pay some $28.7 million in utility debts to CUC. Hell, now I must suspiciously rely on “solutions-driven leadership” for real-time answers.

Is there a way out? Well, the federal court has mandated the local government how much it remits to the settlement fund annually for the next 10 years. The payment is done on a quarterly basis. In brief, payment for retirees’ checks continues for as long as there’s money.

What happens in two years when money with the settlement fund is completely exhausted? Retirees would need some magical rain and fire dance to encourage revenue generation to improve. Without sufficient revenue in the local treasury we all walk home—skipping the banks—rehearsing our mea culpa. That would be the day of infamy for retirees!

Otherwise we’d have to accept what’s known in local net fishing tradition as “patten tiau” in hopeful prayer that something breaks for the better. Or line up along Beach Road with our paper bags and baskets for donations. Would people who are equally broke donate? Juggling the same numbers won’t change the dreaded derivative.

Our sails are torn
Reality has finally set in where we’re sent on a tailspin trying to understand the inevitable—the consistently sluggish revenue generation—amidst obligations that pile up by leaps and bounds.

Indeed, politicians must be equipped with vision, leadership, and genuine plans to move things forward. This must be supported by integrity and mindfulness, knowing full well what they want done forthwith to help the multitude. Even a master navigator uses everything at his disposal to guide his canoe forward both night and day to safe port. Am I preaching to the choir?

Interesting, if not, appalling how easily Republicans have passed the baton unto CDA to work on an economic plan for the CNMI. It goes without saying it also has no clue that it must have a firm understanding where’s the goal post is when it hits the ground running beginning on inauguration day. How sad the wind our sails are torn!

Fast tracking casino
Unfortunately, the deepening fiscal crisis has forced the administration to press the panic button to fast track Best Sunshine’s casino in Garapan. The intent is to shore up more money hopefully soon for piles of government obligations.

Hope inter-agency cooperation is extended BSI to get its initial casino rolling before year’s end. The CNMI needs money to maintain and continue the same level of services.

There’s nothing wrong fast tracking casino. Nonetheless, it’s a tale of obligations having gone way ahead of what’s coming into the local coffers annually.

We must also demand the local triad—Lt. Gov. R. Torres, House Speaker J. Guerrero, and Rep. R. Demapan—to pay their fine of $10,000. Since when is it law that it is the taxpayers’ obligation to pay wrongs committed by public officials?

Interesting the initial rain and fire dance used by the triad to avoid eventual prosecution. What is it in the term “public” that you fail to understand? Even a grammar school student knows this by heart. At the outset you were viciously in denial of law violation. You finally worked up the nerve to admit wrongdoing. Let’s complete the process by your taking full responsibility for paying the $10K. It was never the taxpayers’ doing in any form or fashion. Dalai `ste na che`chu` tatamudu!


The local triad—Lt. Gov. R. Torres, Speaker J. Guerrero and Rep. R. Demapan—promise to audition for the nativity skit at Mt. Carmel as the Three Kings. It would be interesting what kind of gifts they’d bring to the Baby Jesus. However, their role must not be accepted unless they confess how they’ve missed the turn to Integrity Land. I mean two lies and the failure to pay the $10K isn’t an absolution!

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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