Review of our fiscal posture


The U.S. General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, is here to look into the CNMI fiscal posture, e.g., deficit, revenue and its ability to pay debts and obligations.

This is to avoid replicating the Puerto Rico experience of drowning in a sea of debt of some $77 billion. Such fiscal condition has forced many of its people to flee to the U.S. mainland.

This relocation (literally an evacuation) happened here some eight years ago. More than 3,000 of our people evacuated to Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, intuitively sensing how paradise has turned into a hellish hole. The evacuation continues to occur today, especially from Tinian and Rota.

The CNMI is now saddled with a $471 million deficit, if not more. I’m sure this doesn’t include the over $700-plus million in long-term debt of the old retirement program, driven to bankruptcy by half-cocked political decisions. A huge deficit isn’t sound fiscal posture, is it?

Nonetheless, did the NMI follow constitutional requirement that deficit is retired every two years? Or was this given the usual juvenile excuse of “not yet, already?” It’s a constitutional mandate that exist for a purpose—ensure pubic funds are spent with a sense of frugality so it doesn’t turn into a fiscal monstrosity.

GAO should delve into policy-driven bankruptcy, e.g. a decision years ago to avoid taxing the apparel industry for fear it may leave. Well, WTO came in and knocked out Covenant protection of goods manufactured here. Garment left!

Today, the NMI turns its head taxing the casino industry that last month raked in over $32 billion. We still want to milk U.S. mainland taxpayers for needs here while skipping a system of taxation that establishes a level playing field.

GAO should also review land, housing and banking policies where land is funneled through banks for loans, seemingly destined into the unintended consequence of homelessness. Aren’t there federal housing programs that could help moderate-income folks build family homes?

As it is, it seems policies in these two areas are designed to force homelessness and destitution. Hope this too comes under scrutiny to do away with internally generated hardship. This must change!

Take five:

The often-blurred rhetoric on indigenous rights turns into intramural calisthenics. I’m appalled at the anomaly of grand inconsistency thundering from the loose valves of advocates.

It would be to our benefit to seriously review what’s known as “translational dematerialization” of culture in postcolonial period and an internal review of our performance in self-government since 1978. It should give us a view of our journey, e.g., changes since taking over the reins of self-rule. Furthermore, it should be self-evident where we messed up too!

We can’t cherry pick indigenous issues for it only depicts half-cock commitment to be of assistance. It should include a fight against the bulldozing and desecrating of ancestral burial ground at Anaguan and elsewhere. Collectively, we should challenge locals fronting for foreigners buying land as a way to circumvent Article 12. Are the purchases legal?

Pearl of wisdom

We know that culture is what…binds individuals in a group with roots, in a community in which they think and will generally, with a people a moral unity, and the individual united within himself.

I know my culture and the fact that I am wrapped in dual genealogy. Through the years I’ve benefited from its “pearl of wisdom,” respect being the highest of virtues in both traditions. It is the enduring spiritual anchor and lasting foundation of a way of life. Posturing is a bad juncture for purposes of bonding!

Local tradition and its core values are a part of me and have shared and passed them on to my own children. They in turn would adopt it that sets the path to attain a way of life that is both “virtuous and enduring.”

The enemy: Some suspect professorial advocates have simply ignored revisiting the agreement to understand its provisions. In the process, they blindly established another political status commission in futility. What about the 902 talks? So why circle the bull cart looking for the keys?

Reminds me of Mahatma Ghandi’s answer when asked what’s the major hindrance to Christianity? His answer was simple, “Christians!”

The 80-percent blowout: Increase per CPI between 2010-2015 is about 18 percent. What was the basis of the 80 percent decision inundated with greed to pad their Cadillac lifestyle? And you could only dish 5 percent for lowly public sector employees? What about private industry employees who are paid lower than those in government?

A right that is…isn’t: The NMI is caught in the crossfire of differing federal circuit court decisions relating to landownership disposition and the rights of non-indigent U.S. citizens allowed to vote on the same issue. I suppose it’s a right that isn’t! Dizzying?

Indigenous advocates, through an attorney, are asking a federal appeals court for a rehearing. How would the court untangle a Johnny-come-lately request? Why wasn’t it challenged when it was still in federal court here? Aren’t federal appeals court decisions final?

It appears a citizen’s right to vote was premised on the legal precedent Rice V. Cayetano case. Mr. Rice was born in Hawaii.

Mr. Rice took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court who ruled unconstitutional the Native-Hawaiian only voting, saying it was race-based. It seems a parallel case, isn’t it? NMDC may succeed in the “circus” court but there’s a U.S. Supreme Court ruling already per the Rice case.

Yes, there’s a citizen’s rights to own property where challenges may be litigated on the perceptual discriminatory aspect of Article 12. I say there’s nothing discriminatory given that Native Americans (Indians) are allowed to own their land. Like they say, “What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander!”

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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