If there’s any good news at all, it is that it’s not like the CNMI economy is back at where it was in 2011 and 2012. With prudent controls, Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) believes it may still be possible to stay above water.
Blanco, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, said his committee has been holding deliberations on the budget for fiscal year 2020 “and it seems to be the numbers close to the 2017 budget.”
“So we just have to tighten the nuts. …We just need to exercise prudent control; it is going to be a little painful. But, starting today, we have to exercise our prudent measures, then I think we will be okay,” he said.
In line with this, he is advising the government to watch every penny it spends in the wake of additional austerity measures and the implementation of reduced working hours, most recently at the Executive Branch.
Blanco pointed out that budget cuts have already been implemented in the fiscal year 2019 budget and are going to be built into the fiscal year 2020 budget.
Last month, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres issued a directive where all agencies and departments under his office would cease operations every payday Friday starting on July 5. The implementation of the 72-hour work schedule starts on the June 23 to July 5 pay period.
Blanco’s 13-member committee, which scrutinizes the proposed expenditures of the government, has already met with officials of the CNMI State Public School System, the Municipality of Tinian and Aguigan, the Municipality of Rota, the Judiciary, the Department of Public Safety, the Northern Marianas College, and the Commonwealth Health Care Corp.
“We have spoken to agencies. When we analyzed their budgets, there were a lot of discrepancies. So, they [PSS, Tinian, Judiciary, DPS, NMC, and CHCC] were the first agencies that we wanted to look at. We asked them, ‘this is your budget request and this is the governor’s submission. We see a gap. What have you done in trying to align it with the governor’s proposal?’ Because, the governor’s proposal is based on projections on whatever revenues we are going to get.”
The government’s collections have yet to meet its projections, despite a 3-percent revenue increase in the second quarter of the current fiscal year. Blanco said that Finance Secretary David Atalig, during one of their hearings, said the government is low on cash.
“He [Atalig] said we just don’t have the cash necessary to disburse allotments to the agencies at the moment. Whatever cash he has, he has to balance it. He has to balance it so that everybody gets something.”