Marianas Variety

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    Sunday, August 19, 2018-6:12:13A.M.






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Editorials 2017-October-13

The real problem

IN answer to complaints about lack of planning, the government created a planning office.

In answer to complaints about rezoning, the government commissioned a land use plan. These are all very useful responses, but not necessary. The plans and government agencies that can do these jobs are already in place — they simply are ignored or forced by political pressure to do what the politicians want them to do.

The Zoning Board is a case in point. Staff may recommend a particular approach, but is vetoed by the board. The board may recommend a particular action, but is vetoed by the Legislature. And so on.

The creation of the planning office and the adoption of a land use plan will not cure the level of political interference at work throughout the government which is run by politicians.

The supposed solution

CRAWFORD & Associates, a firm contracted by Interior, found, among other things, that as of Sept. 30, 2015, approximately 199.5 percent of the CNMI’s 216.6 million of total assets were funded with debt or other obligations.   For every $1 of assets the CNMI owns, it owes almost $2 to others. “However,” the report added, “this ratio does represent a slight improvement from the debt-to-assets ratio of the prior period.”

A mountain of debt was accumulated in prior years and repayment will continue to be slow especially if the government continues to divert revenue to government salary raises and other politically expedient causes rather than tending to its substantive obligations, like paying its over $40 million debt to CUC.

In a recent report, the U.S. GAO pointed out that the CNMI’s public indebtedness for bonds was relatively low compared to Puerto Rico, but there is considerable risk to recovery stemming from the uncertainty of the labor market, among other factors.

The fate of the local economy now depends on the decisions that faraway U.S. lawmakers will make, and never mind if many of them do not even know what — or where — the CNMI is. The CNMI’s dire need for labor is a scenario played out in different parts of the United States and its other territories. Apparently, however, the recommended “solution” for the CNMI — and other jurisdictions that do not have the political clout that the big states have — is to take it on the chin.

A reminder

THE Republic of Palau is honoring its commitment to honor U.S. defense needs in the Pacific by permitting the installation of radar equipment and facilities in the islands. Although we are hundreds of miles away from Japan and South Korea, the CNMI is part of the U.S. strategic defense arc, and tensions on the Asian continent may accelerate defense plans here and on Guam.