(Press Release) — Rep. Angel A. Demapan has pre-filed House Bill 22-21, also known as the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority Act of 2021. The proposed legislation aims to strengthen the tools and powers of the CNMI government’s ability to promote and expand economic development by restructuring the current Commonwealth Development Authority and establishing the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority.
“The Commonwealth economy requires a renewed focus on economic development and diversification to provide jobs and economic opportunity to a community that has beleaguered with natural disasters, global crisis, and the lingering impacts of the wide- spread collapse of the manufacturing sector that has resulted in volatilities inherent within an undiversified economy,” said Demapan.
The proposed legislation states that the Commonwealth Development Authority, since its establishment through the Commonwealth Development Authority Act of 1984, has succeeded in its statutory mandate over the course of the last 36 years.
However, Demapan noted that as global and regional economic landscapes change and industries evolve, there is a need to amend the statutory language for the challenges of the 21st century.
“A targeted focus of a single governmental entity to plan for and implement efforts to cultivate a stronger, more diversified economy for the Commonwealth is necessary in establishing competitiveness against locations vying for global investments,” added Demapan. “The purpose of the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority will be to serve as the primary agency tasked with the economic development of the Commonwealth, and to be empowered to undertake this mandate with the flexibility to become proactive in the pursuit of industries and investments that will strengthen the CNMI economy.”
Under H.B. 22-21, Demapan proposes to amend Title 4, Division 10, Chapter 2, §10203(a) to add five new subsections to the current powers of the agency as follows:
1. To assist in the development of the economic development plan for the Commonwealth, and control and implement that part of the plan assigned to it by the Governor of the CNMI.
2. To be responsible for actively promoting the CNMI as a location for private investment.
3. To promote and encourage the CNMI and development of new businesses within the Commonwealth, as well as promote the retention and expansion of existing businesses.
4. To promote and encourage the expansion and development of market for the products of the CNMI and to encourage the establishment of commercial linkages of CNMI products within the local tourism industry.
5. To coordinate, develop, and participate in off-island investor missions to generate interest and investment in the CNMI, with emphasis on business investments from the United States.
Demapan also noted that the proposed legislation stemmed from concerns raised by the business community and the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.
“In the midst of the ongoing global pandemic, the CNMI, like most parts of the world, finds itself in an opportune time to make necessary pivots and innovatively prepare for rebuilding and restoring our economy,” said Demapan. “By restructuring CDA and updating the agency’s economic development and diversification strategies, the CNMI will be poised to become much more competitive in its efforts to attract viable investments to the islands.”
In addition to promoting the CNMI as a location for private investment, Demapan proposes that the new CEDA also implement policies for the expansion and retention of existing businesses, the promotion and marketing of products of the CNMI, and the undertaking of promotional activities for CNMI investments in line with the economic development plan for the CNMI.
“Ultimately, the overarching intent of this legislation is to spur new and viable economic investments to the CNMI, generate new and much needed revenues, and provide jobs to our people, many of whom have been displaced by the adverse impacts of the global pandemic,” added Demapan.