Pondering major issues


Before the wildebeest overruns the old cattle fence, let’s tinker with disquieting fundamental issues getting torched under the scorching Sun of Negligence of recent past.

There are huge planned development programs on the wings, e.g., 2,000-room hotel, another 700 rooms under the former Nikko and yet another project of about 200-plus rooms for a total of about 2,900 rooms. All are slated for construction up north of San Roque and As Matuis.

With the economy in shambles, piling into heaps of fiscal crisis, I wish the planned projects could be fast tracked to rake in direly needed infusion of wealth and jobs. It’s the perfect recipe to salvaging complete bankruptcy of the local government. But there are potential glitches ahead.

Nervous and servile policymakers mistakenly placed the bull atop the bull cart. Now they’re complaining that their pet beast is too big and heavy. When do we rid ourselves of the hazards of “advancing to the rear”? Why skip the more thorough review process of “due diligence”? Lazy? Is dalliance with terminal ignorance on substantive issues the new culture now?

Infrastructure: And so the island now boasts a casino industry! Fine! Next: Could any of the three be built within a reasonable timeline given the obvious lack of basic infrastructure on the northern part of the island? Wouldn’t the cost of basic infrastructure entail federal CIP funds upwards of $250 million? Was due diligence undertaken to figure this aspect of the planned development? Do you see how we’ve simply slammed these projects as a result of dystopian mañana?

The lack of a water table up north means these projects must employ use of “reverse osmosis”—process saltwater—for water needs. Not only is the desalinization system woefully expensive, the 70 percent effluent must be disposed of and EPA would guard the disposal aspect full press court. It means the likely use of city water that would adversely impact the three villages.

Is there a sewer system up north? Now we begin to meet “reality check” in real time. Would there be sufficient power for the impending projects? The power generation plant at Lower Base begins to break down big time to even meet current demands. How does it meet future demands when it’s caught pants down (must resolve federal consent decree) trying to make good on various violations? So CIP funding is a major hurdle from A to Z!

Obviously we failed to do “due diligence” time and again! Any adverse impact up north would definitely turn villagers into real enemies of the casino industry, including over 2,500 applicants waiting for residential homesteads. The lack of “due diligence” creates self-inflicted setbacks and deterrents for investments! When do we plan for projects to succeed?

Generous Sunshine
Stunning the generosity of Best Sunshine doling out millions of dollars to pay for the 25 percent in pension pay cut by Gov. Eulogio Inos, including delinquent CUC clientele. It’s unheard of in any U.S. jurisdiction! Is this unconfirmed commitment for the duration? How about a 24 prcent tax in what could be treated as “earnest funds” and leave disposition to the local government?

Beyond the servile standing ovation for BS’ bloated generosity, did it occur to management that the informed and poised citizenry wish to know who among four gubernatorial candidates would benefit from its “Santa Baby” scheme? Will it be Hofschneider, Babauta, Guerrero, or just who? Moreover, is the innovative though dastardly scheme the new mode of investment in the CNMI—tethered to political connections? Strangely interesting the long shadowy patronage!

A lot has gone wrong in paradise, right? Moreover, the government of the Republic of China has instituted full investigation into corruption in Macau. Wouldn’t this probe adversely affect investment in the Saipan casino? As responsible citizens, it’s our duty to seek clear answers from queries raised herein. We need to be both smart and wise guiding the needle of growth so it doesn’t become the very tool of indigenous displacement.

Dangerous fiscal crisis
Buddy Magoo is miffed that Binganu ignores his views on issues. He insists that I engage our other friend in a discussion. Always open for fresh ideas, I invited Binganu for coffee at the lanai at home. I listened to my friends go at it.

Magoo asserted that the annual financial need of the NMI is upwards of $256 million. “We collected this amount in revenues during the boom years.”

“So how much are we now collecting in these ‘doom’ years?” asked Binganu

“It’s around $135 million per the FY 2015 budget now before the Legislature,” noted Magoo.

“Has anyone done critical research to pinpoint the culprit in the huge loss of revenue streams in recent past?”

“Nah! And therein lies the very troubling aspect of the degenerative effects of revenue losses,” Magoo pointed out.

Said Binganu: “If what we make is only a third of the actual needs of this government, it’s obvious the domino effect is one disastrous economy that triggers financial and fiscal crises and other crises.”

“For as long as we overlook the need for a comprehensive set of plans with positive policies to move the needle of growth forward, fiscal crisis would rule in perpetuity. Is it really hard bringing all the key players from both sectors to organize a set of plans with goals and objectives designed to allow the NMI to pull itself out of the current fatal economic doldrums?”

It’s not hard aspiring what’s good for the NMI. But do we have the resolve to do it? It’s the difference between spouting off aspirations in what’s known as “in stand” versus “on stand” by placing our foot forward to begin anew.

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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