The coronavirus outbreak is not only causing a decline in tourists, but is also resulting in a drop in the number of shipments from Asia, according to Finance Secretary David Atalig.
“We’re seeing a decline in numbers. This is worldwide. I don’t think it’s unique to the CNMI,” he said. “I’ve been reading reports, even in the U.S. mainland, that are showing a reduction in shipments coming from Asia, in general, [from] mainland China.”
“There’s reports of factories and manufacturers in mainland China not being in operation or even able to load containers for export so we will start to see a decline in containers coming from China,” Atalig added.
The Wall Street Journal reported of cargo cancellations mainly between China and the rest of the world, plus containers that are not being filled, prompting European and Asian container ship operators to prepare profit warnings for the first half or the full year.
CNMI Customs clarified though that shipments are still coming in here.
With limited goods coming in from China, the public is concerned about a possible price increase. Atalig said the administration has been monitoring the situation, and will ask the Attorney General’s Office if a price freeze should be put in place.
“I am aware that the administration is reviewing and looking at price gouging as well,” Atalig said. “This is not just only a disaster that we’re experiencing, not a natural disaster in formed weather, but this is an economic disaster.
“We’re going to experience the effects of the coronavirus in the lack of tourists and visitors that we will be receiving…and gives our retail community or businesses an opportunity to change prices to maximize their profits, but we are reviewing that and the administration will be asking the AG’s Office to review should we need to declare a freeze in any pricing,” Atalig said.
He stressed, however, that “it’s business as usual” at the moment.
“We hope that all businesses are empathetic to the community as we’re all going to go through the struggle…and my message would be to just do business as usual and not take advantage of the situation…”