The Department of Finance is urging the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to implement stringent cost-containment measures, following its report that the CNMI has only $21 million to run the entire government for the rest of the fiscal year.
In a report on the revised annual revenue estimates addressed to the governor, Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig projected a 48% decrease on the fiscal year 2020 budget due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has to the local economy, triggered by the massive decline in tourists, trickling down to other businesses.
“The halt in tourism will result in unprecedented reductions in tax collections and other revenue-generating activities in government operations and services,” Atalig said.
The department also projects that government spending will decline from previous years and the spill-over effects of the loss of government expenses will become more apparent in the CNMI economy, moving forward.
Included in the cost-containment measures Atalig has suggested is the consolidation and restructuring of government departments. “This is a unique opportunity for the administration to maximize our limited financial resources by reviewing agencies and programs to streamline overlapping organizations and responsibilities,” the official said. “I recommend the administration should consider the benefits of a reduction-in-force program that redirects government personnel to address the ongoing shortage of labor in the CNMI private sector.”
Finance also recommended that there will be no hiring, re-hiring, reclassification, reassignments, within-grade increases, or any other change in status, in terms of personnel actions.
Atalig also proposed that working hours for employees funded under the general fund be decreased to 64 hour per payroll period and, for federally-funded positions, 80 to 72 hours, “to use federal dollars to stimulate economic activity within the domestic economy through local consumption expenditures.”
Finance is also encouraging all government agencies to help ensure federally-funded programs are prioritized and their ability to apply for similar opportunities are sustained.
Aside from these, restrictions in overtime, travel, contracts and leases, and purchases have also been recommended. Finance also called for utilities and fuel conservation.