Editorials 2020-March-20

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Stay safe

LIKE many people all over the world, we are waiting for events to unfold. In the NMI’s case, we hope that these will include timely federal assistance, the availability of test kits, and the creation of a vaccine.

Meanwhile, we have to listen to the authorities and medical experts. Social distancing may not be a cure-all, but it can help reduce rates of infection. As much as possible, we should stay home and practice good hygiene. We should also verify first any alarming information that is easily and quickly relayed especially on social media. By now, we should know that the Internet is a powerful tool that can either inform or misinform us. The contact numbers and websites of reputable sources of official information are readily available online. We should consult them.

Long-lasting

ONCE Covid-19 is, more or less, contained, picking up the pieces of whatever is left of the local economy is likely to be a challenging task. Prior to the pandemic, the NMI was still trying to recover from the natural disasters of 2018. The local GDP is worth over $1 billion. (Guam’s? Over $5 billion.) But the CNMI also owes the federally created Settlement Fund over $700 million — or about 70% of the local GDP.

The economic consequences of Covid-19 are expected to be long-lasting. And we’re not talking about the tourism industry only. According to The Wall Street Journal on March 14, “The rapidly spreading coronavirus has reached every corner of the U.S. economy, upending the jobs of Seattle taxi drivers, Texas oil workers and Wall Street traders — and nearly everyone in between. The virulent invader, which swept through Asia and Europe, is leading many U.S. businesses to hoard cash, pare spending and rethink how they operate without knowing how long the troubles will last. Some that lost business may never get that revenue back. Thinner profit margins and a focus on cost cutting mean some firms may lose key workers, vendors and the ability to invest for the future.”

On March 18, The Wall Street Journal, reported: U.S. employers “are cutting shifts, suspending work and starting to lay off workers as the new coronavirus devastates business across the country. Companies from restaurant operators to wedding caterers have started to let workers go as they ratchet down operations. Many firms have moved cautiously to date, furloughing employees and moving workers to part-time status. But for many companies, economists say, layoffs are likely next.”

Littering, as usual

ONE of the good things about the current CNMI government shutdown is that it includes the Legislature. In this time of emergency, the last thing we need is more legislation that is likely to be ineffectual or, worse, do more harm than good.

CNMI lawmakers, in any case, are basically “co-mayors” — they’re usually the first government officials sought by constituents who need help (which could be anything). And this why the more popular lawmakers, now and then, are usually never known for the bills they introduce, but for what they actually do in their precincts.

With more people now going to the beaches, and with the Division of Parks and Rec personnel included in the government shutdown (why?), perhaps lawmakers and other officials — while observing safety measures, of course — can help clean up what their useless laws can’t prevent.

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