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Editorials 2020-February-28

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Arithmetic will win

THE raging dispute regarding the PSS budget — which is actually about the salaries of its personnel — reminds us of the following story which happened about a decade ago when the CNMI economy had not yet hit rock-bottom.

A government official was at a business establishment and he wanted to know why he couldn’t take home the item he wanted to purchase with a government check. He was told that, according to the bank, the account was practically empty. How could that be? the official asked as he took out a copy of the government’s newly enacted budget act as “evidence” that there should be money in that account because the law of the land said so. The business establishment’s manager — an admirably patient man — told the official that the money must, first of all, actually and physically exist in the bank account and not just on a piece of paper.

On Wednesday, three of the five elected BOE members voted to take the central government to court and “force” it to remit to PSS the money that the central government doesn’t have. Apparently, this course of action is in line with the recent high court ruling on the PSS certified question. (Incidentally, the most sensible part of the high court’s slip opinion was the dissent penned by Justice Perry Inos: “The courts should be wary of tying the hands of policymakers or limiting their ability to conduct fiscal policy with the requisite flexibility…. It is not for this Court to create restrictions on the legislature’s spending power where the Constitution does not.” http://cnmilaw.org/pdf/supreme/2020-MP-02.pdf)

Litigation, in any case, could be a lengthy process and may be subject to appeals. Laws and even constitutional provisions can be amended or repealed. Moreover, until the economy improves to generate enough revenue for the government, there could be no real financial relief for PSS or any other government agency. It is also highly unlikely that elected officials would lay off government employees and/or shut down government offices so that PSS personnel could continue receiving the pay raises that were approved when the economy was still growing three years ago.

A good idea

WE hope the proponents of the Chalan Kanoa sidewalk project will find a way to make it happen. As businessman Bob Jones points out, the entire community will benefit: “Mobility for all, safety for pedestrians and drivers, social occasions, economic vitality even health benefits.”

He recently met with DPW officials to discuss a possible public-private partnership. He is also encouraging other businesses “to step forward and support this development.” The main hurdle, as usual, is the availability of funding especially in the current economic climate. But planning can now start, and perhaps the administration’s grants office can also provide some help.

A bad idea

THE Latte Training Academy says it has been “working to bring licensed and qualified barbering and stylist instruction to the CNMI.” That’s great. But LTA also says that the CNMI, like the states and Guam, should require barbers and stylists to have a professional license. Which is not so great for their patrons who are likely to end up paying much higher prices. Some barbers and hair stylists may simply go “underground.” (For more information, ask any of the island’s remaining “licensed” taxi cab drivers about their unlicensed competitors.)

Right now, in any case, the absence of licensing requirements for hair stylists is quite possibly the least of the CNMI’s problems.

But again, providing trades training to local residents should be encouraged and supported because, ultimately, the goal of workforce development is to make life better for the public — not more expensive.

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