Editorials 2019-November-08

Don’t just legislate; deliberate!

THANK you Sen. Frank M. Borja for seeking comments from those that will be affected by a bill to “regulate” — that is, impose fees on — real estate transactions in the CNMI.

The Tinian lawmaker chairs the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs which is now considering H.B. 21-14. He has reached out to real estate companies, government agencies and other members of the community who may have questions, concerns or suggestions regarding the bill.

According to the senator, comments and recommendations “will greatly assist the committee in making any determination before any action by the full Senate body.”

Exactly. All legislative committees should do the same for all bills. The Legislature should be more deliberative, and public hearings should be the norm and not just for controversial bills.

Events are in the saddle

THE Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce on Thursday announced that the CNMI’s Gross Domestic Product, which increased by over 25 percent in 2017, declined by almost 20 percent in 2018. The BEA said this is “due to a decrease in visitor spending, including on casino gambling. Revenues from casino gambling dropped over 50 percent. The number of visitors to the CNMI decreased 21.5 percent, reflecting the effects of Typhoon Yutu, which made landfall on Saipan and Tinian in October 2018.” Moreover, “private fixed investment decreased 19.8 percent, reflecting a decline in business spending on construction and equipment.”

To their credit, the administration and the Legislature appear to have stopped the bleeding. The government, so far, is meeting its most pressing obligations. The austerity measures remain in effect, but critical services continue to be delivered. In the past, when the austerity measures were more severe, there were also rolling blackouts; the Retirement Fund was facing bankruptcy; CUC and the hospital were on the verge of collapse — and there seemed to be no light at the end of a tunnel except for the light of an oncoming train.

Today, in contrast — and barring another unforeseen cataclysm — the CNMI government’s financial outlook should continue to (slowly) improve, but the economy remains weak. Still, through the tireless efforts of its elected officials, the CNMI will continue to have access to at least some of the workforce it needs, and to a major tourism market.

Much depends on the tourism industry and the Saipan casino project, the completion of which should remain a top priority.

The question now is whether the FBI raids on Thursday could adversely affect both.