There is nothing new…except what has been forgotten
THE Commonwealth’s most eminent historian wants to see “a complete history of CNMI elections” that will include a graph of the elections from 2000 to 2020 which he says “might be sufficient to demonstrate a meaningful trend.” He is hoping that local high school or college students would take up the challenge.
For our part, as the islands’ oldest newspaper that has reported on NMI elections since 1972, we offer the following observations:
- “Hope,” “change,” “new faces,” “educated candidates” are almost always among the primary considerations for many voters.
- In each election year, the major issues are, more or less, the same.
- There has never been a majority of voters who demand the implementation of government cost-cutting measures that will involve department/agency/office closures, mass layoffs and/or significant paycuts.
- Even the seemingly most able, highly educated and/or experienced elected officials can do little or nothing in terms of meeting the CNMI government’s obligations without the revenue provided by economic growth.
And there’s the rub. As former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana would put it, “Politicians need to place much more emphasis on economic growth, which is the key that unlocks many doors and is the preferred course to ease the anxiety and cynicism abroad in the country. Growth should be the central aim of economic policy, and how to achieve it should be the focus of the policy debate.”
WHAT should the CNMI government do with Imperial Pacific — the cash-strapped, hounded-by-vendors, riddled-with-lawsuits, under-federal-investigation, shut-down-by-Covid casino investor?
When the going was still good, IPI provided the CNMI with tens of millions of dollars in new revenue — exactly what the casino proponents said a Saipan casino would generate. The primary beneficiaries were government retirees. The pension fund, which was facing oblivion in 2013, was replenished, prompting a federal judge to say, “It’s a miracle [it has] survived this far.” The court-appointed trustee was more specific: “The [CNMI] Government is able to make the weekly $1 million payments, in part, because of the increased Casino GRT revenue…. The Casino GRT has developed into a primary source of revenue for the Government.”
A new revenue source, moreover, meant more funding for the government’s major agencies such as PSS, and other obligations such as medical referrals. But then Yutu happened which staggered the economy, followed by Covid-19 which put it in a coma.
IPI’s mostly self-inflicted legal and other woes didn’t help either. And so here we are.
IPI, of course must be held accountable for its alleged transgressions. But the questions that any responsible CNMI official must answer sooner than later are the following:
Where to get the revenue that the government used to collect from IPI?
How big a financial hole are we talking about it here?
What are the government offices, programs or services that will have to be shut down?
How many government employees will lose their jobs?
As for the anti-casino politicians, here’s another opportunity to finally come out in the open and publicly advocate for the repeal of the Saipan casino law. Spoiler alert: the law won’t repeal itself. The original casino law was repealed in 1979 because of a referendum petition pushed by concerned citizens and politicians. Those who truly believe that casino gaming is “evil” should, for once, put their money where their mouth is. And while they’re at it, they should also include a proposal to ban another of their pet peeves, poker machines.
Too much talk, not enough action.