Why tough economic times may persist in the Mariana Islands: It’s about economic homeland security


Looking at the big picture, there are many indicators that the overall economic environment of the American and American colonial landscape will become more challenging as we move ahead. Why this is important is that all of us are trying to make a living while taking care and supporting our families and loved ones. In this day and age, money counts, holding a good job counts, and positively contributing to helping our families, friends, villages, communities, and regions remains a paramount endeavor.

What is most unique, however, when it comes to economic hardship and challenges are that our Mariana Island chain is literally isolated from large continental landmasses, and thus must more heavily rely on sea-based commercial activities, the actions of first nation powers, limited ways to purchase electricity, and all the benefits and costs associated with not having immediate access to extensive logistical commercial networks, except for information networks. 

Some commonly viewed indicators
The U.S. dollar is now stronger compared to other currencies. A stronger dollar makes it more expensive for visitors and tourists to visit our Mariana Islands. There continues to be a worldwide supply chain challenge that remains difficult to overcome. We see this in grocery stores where many food items, for example, have been or remain out of stock. 

The price of copper, which is viewed as a key commodity to follow to divine future economic activity and worldwide demand, has dropped in price. Year-to-date rises in the stock market haven’t been realized, despite recent gains this past July. 

Interest rates or yields on short-term U.S. government bonds is higher now than long-term interest rates on longer-term U.S. government bonds. Some view this as an indicator that future growth will slow. U.S. government deficit spending and borrowing remain at historically high levels. This does not bode well for the American nation and its desire to sustain its position as the world’s largest overall economy. 

Gross domestic product has declined, the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates for the purpose of taming inflation, yet real wage growth has not generally increased at similar levels in real terms. National construction activity levels and business spending levels have also contracted. 

Additional indicators for our Mariana Islands
Because our Marianas Islands are dependent mostly on shipping goods into our area, staples such as imported food will remain at best expensive and at worst become prohibitively expensive or not available.  

Gas prices continue to fluctuate sometimes down, but mostly up. Meanwhile major oil companies such as Exxon and Chevron have made record profits this year. The continual influx of military personnel into the island chain, most especially Guam, will continue to drive up cost of living factors such as housing prices, rentals, food, and other basic quality of life concerns.

Some questions to ask ourselves that relate to economic homeland security
Beyond technical and institutional indicators that are national macro-economic indicators to begin with, we simply need to remind ourselves this: will we individually and collectively be better or worse off later this year, past the election and throughout the first half of next year? No matter what selection we make, how are we thinking about our answers, and can we properly justify our beliefs? 

Can we afford to buy the same food items, assuming they are still on store shelves, without having to trade off purchasing other things? Can we still move forward with paying rent or purchasing a car or is this hope on hold because of additional financial stressors? Can we still afford to pay for services of all kinds or are we going to have to make bigger trade-offs once again? 

How is the military presence and growth affecting overall inflation, especially in Guam? Is military spending in Guam and the NMI really providing first order tangible benefits that make their way to village homes and our people or is the collective conversation more semantic and obtuse? Are supposed military buildup benefits really for the few? And what about tourism? How does our island chain manage growing tourist arrivals considering a stronger dollar, making vacations for foreigners more expensive? 

Now is the best time to revisit many pocketbook questions, while holding our locally elected officials and ourselves fully accountable to the best extent possible. Remember, though, that public officials have a limited number of tools to influence the pricing of goods and services across the board because many factors influencing the pricing of goods and services are beyond the scope of decisions made by politicians at the local level.

However, public officials can better address and more completely discuss things like the cost of electricity and the drivers behind high power bills as well as limitations and successes of publicly provided goods. These issues all revolve around quality of life, economic homeland, and ultimately American national and American national colonial security, which is why we need to continue to pay close attention to inflation and perceptions about the economy throughout the region and in the continental United States. 

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For more information, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.