Progress vs marginalization


There isn’t a scintilla of doubt in my mind of the strength of the leadership of Palau in guarding the shores of the republic in the interest of future generations.

But contrary to recent news reports, a lot of their own had to leave Koror recently in view of the influx of Chinese visitors and investors. The Chinese have more money and so the demand for space rental went up, displacing Palauan businessmen who once occupied the place.

In the process most had to relocate to nearby Airai or seek housing in inner Babeldaob, given that Koror is now the new business center for investors from China.

The price of basic goods have also gone up while “the celebrated minimum wage signed into law in 2013 with a guaranteed $3.50 per hour pay rate by year 2016” can no longer sustain the livelihoods of Palauans.

The influx of new residents may have benefited those with land and office space but leaves hourly wage earners slugging it out from paycheck to paycheck in prayerful hope that something would break for the better.

The accumulated wealth or growth looks good at face value and may be cause of celebration. But I find this so-called “progress” equally troubling if its advance becomes the very tool of displacement or marginalization of a majority of our Palauan brothers and sisters.

Here at home we’re bracing for life with glitz and glamour on the fast lane. We shall see what the warped visionaries had in mind in about several years in terms of the future of our young people. Is it casino? Is a bigger casino better? Wasn’t there the shutter of four big ones in New Hampshire and New Jersey built around “bigger” as the line, hook, and sinker?

Recent news report has it that nearly 40,000 of our people are on Medicaid plus 15,000 are NAP recipients, discounting housing assistance. These setbacks are very troubling born or triggered by the lack of economic prosperity, therefore opportunities.

Indeed, we could boast having the largest casino outside of Macau, Singapore, South Korea, and Manila. But is this the future of our children the brainchild of half-cocked policymakers? We need not go further than Belau to see the negativity of a huge influx of people from without.

NMI self-government
It’s appalling the lack of historical perspective on the legal nature and substance of the Covenant Agreement. It was approved by the U.S. Congress in 1975 and subsequently signed into U.S. Public Law 94-241. In short, any changes would require congressional action, especially mutual consent provisions.

Section 101 is in plain simple English that says our relationship with the feds places these isles “under the sovereignty of the U.S.” Section 102 further says that the Agreement is the “supreme law” of the NMI. Section 805 relates to land alienation or what’s otherwise known locally as Article 12. Some sense of perception of history is in short supply!

I’ve gone soul-searching trying to understand what’s in the Agreement that prompts the planned establishment of another political status commission. Haven’t we exercised our rights to self-determination? Didn’t we approve it by 78-plus percent? What substantive provisions were violated by the feds? Could you could articulate it?

Indeed, under the Agreement the U.S. is obligated to “provide for a higher standard of living” for our people. It accomplished this by providing seven years of guaranteed funding for the emplacement of basic infrastructure to aid in fostering economic prosperity. In the mid-’80s we hit the boom years. We had tons of money but failed to save some for that rainy day. The rainy day is here. Our government is literally bankrupt or broke. Whose fault is this?

The economy has stagnated for the last decade. You were and still are standing there chewing your nails. Where did you miss the boat, employing the power of ideas to improve life in paradise? Is your inadequacy the fault of the federal government? Is this why the pouting expression, “Time out?”

People, scapegoats have all gone home and aren’t coming back. When they cleared the field we find ourselves standing alone pondering in obvious disorientation how grandly we screwed things up in, yes, self-government! Can’t even balance our books! Is this the indigenous definition of self-government? Gee! I didn’t know I’ve missed something in grand fashion too!

Our frustrations with economic stagnancy are self-inflicted. We now must deal with federal laws and major regulations fabricated under what’s known as the “administrative state.” Did we ever lift a finger on this score? Or did we sleepwalk it again just to look superficially relevant and intelligent? Yes, intelligently and fiscally bankrupt!

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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