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Council of Economic Advisors holds first meeting; forms committees

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THE Council of Economic Advisors met recently to discuss its short- to long-term priorities, one of its members, Matthew Deleon Guerrero, told the Saipan Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting on Wednesday.

“The short term, obviously, in the current environment is relating to the role of the economy in the current crisis and the impact of the crisis on the economy and small business owners,” he added.

The council has formed several  committees, the first of which — led by Mike Sablan, vice president, finance and administration at Triple J Saipan — will focus on domestic policy and the resumption of domestic economic activity.

Deleon Guerrero said the CNMI economic reopening phases will be centered on the health and safety of consumers, employees, and the entire population.

He added, however, that the  council  “is not necessarily focused on Covid-19….  A lot of good work is being done by the Covid-19 task force, CHCC, our health partners, and our first responders.”

The second committee, helmed by Alex Sablan, vice president of  corporate business development at Tan Holdings Corporation, will concentrate on the medium-term goals involving tourism infrastructure and the resumption of tourism.

From left, economic advisors Alex Sablan and Matthew Deleon Guerrero with Covid-19 task force chair Warren Villagomez, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and CHCC CEO Esther Muna during the presentation of the CNMI Economic Recovery Plan in May at Fiesta Resort. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

These also include identifying policies that can better incentivize more quality, sustainable, high-end tourist products for tourists, Deleon Guerrero said.

The third committee, which is headed by Deleon Guerrero himself, will revolve around economic and fiscal diversification.

“This committee is really focused primarily on assessing what tools are available for economic development and diversification, initially looking into things like the quality certificate program,  opportunity zones, new market tax credits, industrial revenue bonds, and other opportunities that would make the CNMI more competitive in the national environment relating to acquiring and enticing U.S. employers and U.S. industries to set up shop in the CNMI and recognize the opportunities that exist here,” he said.

He said the committee is looking into what other jurisdictions are doing to attract businesses to operate there and where the CNMI is uncompetitive from a policy standpoint.

The goal is to build up  demand for alternative industries in technology, cybersecurity, healthcare, education and other industries that do not rely on land and labor.

Deleon Guerrero said the council committees will continue to meet and reach out to individuals outside of the council, including experts and other interested individuals who may want to contribute to the ongoing conversations.

The council was created under Executive Order 2020-11 on May 19 to replace the previous Strategic Economic Development Council, or SEDC, which was created in the late 1990s to respond to the simultaneous collapse of the Korean tourism market, the diminishing role that garment factories played in the CNMI economy, and the need to look into ways to diversify and build some resiliency in the economy.

Deleon Guerrero noted that the new council still  operates a number of SEDC programs that were discussed and created in the past, highlighting the Investment Incentive Act.

The new council, he said, was formed to create a structure that conforms to the current economic environment.

The Council of Economic Advisors is chaired by Jerry Tan, president and chief operating officer of Tan Holdings Corpo. Other members include Sen. Frank Borja, Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero, Bo Palacios, vice president, J.C. Tenorio Enterprises; Masato Tezuka, president, Tasi Tours; businessman Joe Guerrero, Don J. Power, vice president, FPA Pacific Corp.; Marcie M. Tomokane, vice president/CNMI regional manager,  Bank of Guam; Alex B.K. Youn, president, AC Pacific LLC dba Star Sands Plaza and I Love Saipan; Aubry Hocog, special assistant for programs and grants, Rota mayor’s office; and Gary Sword, owner, KKMP radio station.

 

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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