Mandatory shift


It’s a new year and, with relative success in self-government over the last four decades, what’s your expectations for the next 40 years? Are you optimistic, pessimistic, guarded, or indifferent?

Obviously, major focus should shift to private industry expansion to cover the increasing cost of services. But even as I advocate it, initial apprehension tells me something’s amiss.

For instance, are there still opportunities to do this amidst the decrease of major Nippon investments here in recent past?

Loss: Remember when Nippon investors walked with their luggage to airplanes? Didn’t we lose some $7 billion on money that used to be recycled in the local economy? Have we recovered from this? Most importantly, did we learn anything from it?

The loss of $7 billion is a huge amount so vitally instrumental in paying cost of public services here. For all we know, didn’t it also force keeping salaries at the poverty income level because there’s no money for it? So 15,000 employees had to endure forced hardship because of leadership negligence?

You connect the dots to make sense of the descending implications against the financial posture of the CNMI. Fund scarcity would be on our plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How long would this setback last? How would it affect near and long-term services? Would our friends from Japan return?

Deficit: The economic future of the CNMI lies in its ability to expand private industry beyond conventional wisdom. This requires serious discussions among key players. The issue is significant and requires a lot of thoughtful planning.

Successful expansion grants the NMI the ability to create more jobs and generate more revenues. As it is, the cumulative deficit keeps increasing. Reportedly, CHC is in the hole by $26 million and escalating. I’m convinced it isn’t overspending as much as underfunding a major service. Sayu?

Economy: Moreover, we’ve braved the term “economy” with justified fear that it is far more complex than meets the eye. This triples in complexity when addressing “island economies” that aren’t necessarily endowed with natural resources.

Isn’t the latter the greater challenge? Is this why we shove it aside because of its difficulty? Ignoring it doesn’t pass ownership to others. It reverts to our front door for resolution, right?

It brings the lack of resolve to the next timely query: How much more U.S. taxpayers’ money should be spent here in unearned dues? Self-government simply means living within one’s means. Did you get that, pal? Or should I email it to you? This issue is slowly crawling up the front door. Ready for it?

Evidently, what has triggered diminished investments here? Is it in the laws governing investments or is it more adolescent attitude among the elected elite boasting arrogance as a substitute for lack of understanding what investments entails and the requisite fostering of lasting partnership?

Humility: The three inhabited islands here have seaports that allow for the transfer of heavy equipment with relative ease. This isn’t the case in most islands in Micronesia or island nations below the equator.

For instance, there was a plan for a major schoolbuilding on one of the outer islands down south. The funding institution was asked to ease on a set deadline in the use of funds. This is because in the entire project would be built strictly from volunteer manpower. The island doesn’t have any heavy equipment. Any transfer is null and void because of the lack of seaport facility.

I’ve been to some of these islands as the NMI representative to the South Pacific community. Beautiful isles with gracious island folks and, though they lack modern facilities (as we know it), I didn’t hear anyone clamoring for it either. The sense of contentment with what they have is most humbling.

Heavy: It was 44 years ago when I sailed away from Rongelap and Utirik in the Republic of the Marshalls, quietly praying (as I look ashore to tiny waving hands) knowing many would die of thyroid cancer.

It’s an issue embedded in my mind all these years, troubled by the apparent experiment that sacrificed the innocent in the process. I could swallow fatal illnesses from within and around me but not a forced fate upon folks who are as human as anybody else. Yukwe and my prayers!

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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