The 40-plus journey

Mind boggling that, after more than 40 years, nearly 15,000 employees here are still earning poverty-level wages and salaries. Weren’t there unprecedented growth and development at about the same time that should have lifted all incomes simultaneously?

The issue isn’t the result of political negligence here. Even the U.S. Congress finds it difficult addressing the same concerns, thus it consistently skipped it.

It pertains to opportunities when growth occurs, triggering more income and jobs. But where did they go? How come it seems to have been hidden somewhere? Are we ashamed sharing our success?

Yes, Nippon investments have exited—an issue we seem to have taken lightly in seeming arrogance and ignorance. Is it really a non-issue when the economic contraction is larger than meets the eye? Whatever happened to depth of vision and commitment on investments? Is the CNMI overflowing with excess cash it could afford ignoring recently exited Nippon investments?

It seems apparent that missing the boat on this and other issues is really rooted in the lack of “depth of vision” and pride among the elected elite to see the essence of issues, including an improved economy. If they missed the boat, where then is all the talk about leadership gone?

Beyond our mini-tourism industry, what other sizeable investments have descended other than disoriented politicians on Da Hills of Saipan?

Wish I could embrace optimism for more opportunities in economic expansion but with the exit of Nippon investments, what else is left? It’s a huge loss policymakers must have missed while staring at the unfolding monstrosity. Are you wary of its accompanying economic contraction to our demise or “not yet, already?”

With fading optimism, I’d rest my case for now as the new thematic word “cut” increases decibels all over this fiscally troubled paradise.

Implications: There’s the strange intuition that investments have gone south to some distant land. It means we would have to make do with whatever is left of investments here.

Nippon investment exiting is enough to drain every ounce of hope that we would make it somewhere in the near term. It’s bad tidings all the way around that fast tracks economic downturn quicker than meets nimble local eyes.

It cuts jobs and wealth creation where at day’s end we ask ourselves in arrogant ignorance, what went wrong? Well, you ruined it with your shallow sense of perception so you must have the perfect answer on this score too!

The only lasting answer is in the development of a healthy economy. Is this an issue you’re familiar with at least halfway decent so you could begin realistic discussions? Or do we submit to “not yet, already” until we could step in to show you how things are done under fully thought-out set of plans?

Concept: When wealth and jobs creation are ruined, it instantly translates into far less revenue and meaningful jobs for the islands. This condition shuts off opportunities for families to begin planning for such obligation as putting a roof over their heads, food, and clothing, among other daily needs. But it’s a clear case of negligence treated conveniently as just another seasonal flu by politicos here.

This shows the missing equation in “depth of vision” and commitment among the elected elite to do things right. Or are they even capable of discerning fiduciary duty? But there’s also “we the people” to blame for the apparent pile of dirt we’ve hurled against ourselves, true? Dios mihu!

Understood that most policymakers aren’t necessarily poised with the requisite credentials to dispose of larger issues like the economy. Equally true is the open opportunity to seek professional assistance to put the issue into perspective. Has this initial step been taken or “not yet, already?”

Costly: While it is fitting advocating better pay for employees, it is equally understood that it takes a lot of money to go over this hurdle. It’s a tough issue even conveniently avoided at the national level.

For instance, we have about 15,000 employees in this category. To raise salaries so they move out of poverty income levels requires at least $650 million per year. The NMI doesn’t have the money or the source to cover it.

This makes it a real challenge for anyone in elected office. If you will, federal poverty income guideline is between $15K and $42K per year. Imagine, more than half the workforce earning poverty income that prohibits their meeting basic family needs. Like I said, this is your real challenge!

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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