Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 22 Aug 2019 12am







    Wednesday, August 21, 2019-2:43:41P.M.






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Editorials 2019-May-17

Fingers crossed

MORE bad news on the government’s financial front. The local Medicaid office is out of money and can no longer reimburse private health clinics. For their healthcare needs, Medicaid beneficiaries — over 15,000 of them — must now go to CHC instead.

The local Medicaid office has two possible funding sources: A disaster-assistance fund pending in the U.S. Congress, and the CNMI government’s FY 2020 budget which has to be passed before Oct. 1 this year.

Other CNMI government austerity measures — the least politically problematic of them — have either been implemented or are being considered. So far, the retirees’ pension checks are still being funded. Failure to do so is the red line. Crossing it means that the CNMI has returned to the Pretty-Darn-Good/Better-Times era of slow-motion financial collapse. Those were the days when the debates on Capital Hill were about where else to cut and by how much, and where else to borrow or beg.

We are not there yet. The administration believes that revenue collection may again pick up in the next few weeks or months. We hope so.

Finger-pointing is easier

THERE are no painless “solutions” to the government’s financial problems. Implementing any of them would only inflict more pain on government employees and their families — quite possibly, the biggest voting bloc out there.

We could, of course, resort to shoulda-coulda-woulda recrimination which is always a “fun” thing to do, especially when we’re not the ones who have to make the hard (i.e., extremely unpopular) decisions. These include reducing the salaries or laying off government employees; shutting down or curtailing several public services/programs; reneging on the CNMI government’s commitment to its retirees; raising fees and taxes; and saying no to any community funding request that some of us consider “non-essential”: fishing derbies, Little League baseball, students’ off-island trips to participate in academic or sports competitions, etc.

As we’ve repeatedly pointed out before, “real” cost-cutting measures can be proposed by the administration, lawmakers or the voter themselves through the initiative process. Any of them can also propose setting “real” funding priorities and sticking to those priorities, starting with the FY 2020 budget bill.

The question, then and now, is: Would a majority of elected officials or voters support such proposals?

MVA’s new managing director

TO improve the government’s financial condition, the local economy/tourism industry must show signs of life again. As in many things involving public policy — and life in general — this is easier said than done.

As MVA reported last month, “the tourism industry is…influenced by the national economies in our source markets, and the reality is, Korea and China are soft at this time, so people are traveling less….” But Skymark Airlines has commenced its Saipan-Japan charter flight service and will launch regular, daily service from Tokyo this summer. “Having Japan back as a major source market,” MVA said, “is vital to ensure the stability of and to improve our Marianas tourism economy.”

Equally vital, of course, is the competence of MVA’s management.

Unlike her three immediate predecessors, the new MVA managing director has no direct experience in tourism marketing/industry. (At the time of her appointment in 1994, Anicia Q. Tomokane was more known as an educator fluent in Japanese — she was the first woman elected to the CNMI Board of Education. But she also served as management intern under the Marianas Visitors Bureau’s first managing director in 1979. The local tourism industry reached its peak when Anicia was the MVB chief.)

In any case, the new MVA managing director has the support of the administration — and the MVA board whose members include tourism industry stakeholders. She should be allowed to prove herself. And if the results are not what the MVA board expected, then its members can hire another managing director. Just like what the Board of Education did when it replaced an administration-backed education commissioner a year after hiring her.