The lay of the land

AT a recent House budget hearing, a lawmaker complained about appropriated public funds that had not been disbursed to the intended recipients (government agencies, vendors).

This is not a new complaint.

There are not enough public funds (see state of local economy), but there are a lot of government obligations. Then and now, this has been the leading cause of governmental — and political —migraines.

Lawmakers by now should realize that public funds, even if appropriated by law, have to exist and collected first before they can be spent. Moreover, the government’s annual budgets are mere projections based on the previous year’s actual collections, and hope. Projections, however, can be quickly torpedoed by unexpected/unforeseen events. (See Yutu, Covid-19.)

But regardless of how a fiscal year turn out, the government must meet several of its outstanding financial obligations. In the CNMI’s case, these include the Settlement Fund and bond payments, government payroll, medical referrals, government utility bills. Failure to pay any of these items would likely lead to economic, legal,  political, among other catastrophes.


LEGISLATION is not a magic wand. It is a document with a lot of words, many of which are poorly chosen or meaningless. Many legislative proposals, moreover, are legally deficient, if not illegal. Some can’t be or are not enforced. And there are the laws that have “accomplished” the exact opposite of their supposed goals — or have created new problems and/or made things so much worse.

When the economy is down, like it is now, the government budget act is, more or less, a legislative Hail Mary pass. (See complaints of unfunded government agencies and unpaid government vendors.)

The truth is, it is the state of the economy (or the feds’ generosity which depends on the state of the U.S. economy) that will determine whether the CNMI’s elected officials can deliver on their ever so generous promises to voters — and meet the government’s never-ending, seemingly ever-increasing financial obligations.

As much as possible then, elected officials must end the always well-intentioned but often harmful government (i.e., political) tinkering with the local economy. Stop imposing additional burdens on businesses big or small. Provide MVA the funds that it is supposed to receive under the law so it can find more ways to revive the tourism industry.

Learn more about the issue you’re trying to “address.” Seek comments and feedback especially from those who will be affected by your proposals. Study, think, deliberate.


Game on

HOW about that. For the first time in its history, the NMI will host the Pacific Mini Games, and by the looks of it, the Commonwealth is ready. CNMI government, the organizing committee,  sponsors, donors and volunteers — take a bow.

For the next eight days, hundreds of athletes from all over the region will aspire for excellence. And we will cheer them on. Sports are the great level-playing field. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. You will win, but only if you’re deserving. And if you lose, there is always a next time — a chance for redemption. And if there isn’t, then there is glory in doing your utmost to be the best that you can be, regardless of what the scoreboard says.

Athletes, coaches, officials and other visitors — welcome to the NMI! You’ll love it here.


Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His four books are available on

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