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OPINION | Epitaph 110: The day after Covid-19 — the restart, Part II 

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BEING one of few real Economist in the CNMI who actually studied and was educated to address “Economic Black Swan Events such as natural disasters and recessions like the Great Depression, I am driven to at least try and offer what I believe will help in restarting our economy.

I’m sharing this idea of how to Restart our Economy after Covid-19 because there is real evidence these great teams who have managed the CNMI’s finances whom the Governor was bragging about in his letter to the Editor can’t have a real economist or our economic history would be much different and even prosperous as PROSPERITY has only proven to be a broken promise of the Governor and the GOP for two decades. The GOP has only given us a Casino and the Summit only offered “budget-cuts.”

On the mainland restarting the economy is going to be a much bigger challenge due to the interconnectivity of the states where you can’t control who and what goes in and out, which is KEY to controlling the spread of Covid-19.  There will continue to be cross-contamination from state to state until there is a vaccine for this virus. However, as I previously stated, the CNMI is literally like an Economic “test-tube” with our ability to completely control what & who comes in for our internal economic experiment to affect the variables of our Economic Experiment. Public/Tourists’ CONFIDENCE is the prime directive to restart our economy. The problem in the past and present has been the GOP’s ability to COMPLETELY control ALL the variables in our Economic Plight without any oversight or accountability which is why People have been crying corruption and foul for two decades and the main reason we were in Austerity Mode long BEFORE Covid-19.  I am still trying to figure out HOW in the world voters kept electing a majority GOP when there have been sooooo man corruption claims, but that’s a story for historians and right now I’m more concerned about TOMORROW than history!

Our island destination for Tourism is one of the best positions WE could be in given our ability to fully control what and who comes in which means if we establish the proper barriers to prevent Covid-19 to enter the CNMI we will be one of the few places in the entire world that will be able to brag about being FREE of the virus and capable of keeping our islands FREE of the virus.  Who wouldn’t want to come to such a place in the days after Covid-19 once Airline services restart and become more active? We need to focus on restarting our economy not restructuring the Government that’s being gaslighted by the Governor, which I will discuss that in the next Epitaph. As our biggest worry is the GOP is known for looking out for the GOP & Family first and this is truly common knowledge and this behavior must CHANGE for a fair and equitable restart of our economy.

Restarting our Economy is going to take some SERIOUS decisions that can’t be influenced by POLITICS. This means FIRST and foremost that the CNMI MUST finalize HOW to deal with this IPI Casino and ALL the debt that is owed and HOW to finalize the hotel project in a timely fashion with NO MORE delays. We still need to work with IPI given their large investment already but we can no longer let them “dictate and string-us-along” as it will be time to put-up or shut-up & move-out-of-the-way for new investors who CAN finish the project in the days after Covid-19. This casino has entirely tooooo much of our “internal economic market tied up” waiting on their success which is something we saw when Japan went into a recession that actually gave rise to the opportunity for the Chinese to move in and they did. But there comes a time when we MUST cut-bait and move on to better fishing (investors).  If we don’t have the stomach to get tough with the business of IPI then maybe we should have never gotten into the casino business. Landlords get tough with tenants and put them on the street as they DON’T CARE where you are going to live and we must take that same mentality with IPI.  IPI is facing all kinds of lawsuits from contractors, the important people are quitting IPI and their ability to bring in tourists is still questionable given the “novelty factor” of the casino that is ALREADY old (novelty factor: is the NEWNESS of something that attracts people to try it which wears off over time depending on what is being promoted).  The Japan recession and the failing novelty factor combined to KILL the Casino on Tinian which is an Economic Lesson I hope we have already learned. I also hope Sun Tzu and Natibu Warrior are getting this since he commented and asked me to write about MY solutions. I have also been giving solutions for two decades but I guess/hope he wasn’t a reader until now.

The entire world will be in a recession in the days after Covid-19 and our job or challenge will be to jump-start and keep our economic engine running. But if we can’t control the biggest variable (IPI) that is affecting our economy it will be pretty much a useless factor for restarting our economy which is why it is imperative that we draw-the-line in the sand on IPI. But our problem is the GOP is NOT going to do that as they have been doing the opposite from not charging IPI taxes to giving them one extension after another which actually BREACHED their Contract with the People long before this pandemic. Angel Demapan and the GOP in the Legislature even created a Law to HELP IPI avoid their responsibilities so any plan for restarting our economy could already be DEAD before we even try if the GOP continues with their loyal-allegiance to IPI.

But I will continue to offer my perspectives because it seems we could be approaching the days to restart our economy and the mid-terms elections are also on the horizon and our economy will surely be a priority for us ALL. If we can fully get a handle on IPI, which is the biggest variable, then the rest will be much easier as WE (our leaders) will only need to do the WORK to set the conditions/infrastructure for a full and prosperous economic restart. The good thing about restarting our economy is the ability to inject something NEW into our economic test tube that will complement and enhance the outcomes of the existing Tourism Infrastructure by EXPANDING our Economic Base at the same time.  Expanding our base can be any number of things but WE (our leaders) will have to do the work and go out and FIND them and set the conditions for their success.

I already suggested we prepare to exploit Cannabis Tourism that would put us in the forefront of Tourism in our Region but we are not ready and the Hemp Industry that will offer the potential for manufacturing and exporting. WE (the GOP) just gave-up on manufacturing when the Garment Industry left when the GOP should have been desperately searching for SOMETHING NEW to replace the exploitation of our ability to tag our products with the “Made in the U.S.” label which is the very reason WHY the Garment Industry came here in the first place. The made in U.S. label is actually a VALUABLE ASSET but we are not cashing in on this factor/variable. The CNMI should exploit the Made in U.S. expanding our economic activities using this old and successful economic experiment (the Garment Industry & Made in the US labels) on something new that we know WORKS. We are strategically located between the east with resources and the west needing products which is ideal for Made in the U.S. product production, we just need to do the work to make it happen. I know some will try to put up the argument we don’t have the labor force but I’m not talking “labor-intensive production” but “automation production” where only a few very HIGHLY skilled & paid people to run an entire factory. Made in the U.S. manufacturing is also coming back nationally to be an important and valuable factor in product lines for the entire United States and the World because people KNOW “Made in the U.S.” is the BEST quality, especially when compared to something Made in China, duh!

It should also be noted that WE (the CNMI) MUST STOP these “unfunded liabilities” like the Medical Referral Program which should be part of the budget — stop letting the Governor to freely manipulate our budget, especially when there is no “oversight.” In reality, the Medical Referral Program is PERMANENT and failing to budget our expenses is the failure to plan and WE all know a failure to plan is a plan for FAILURE!  But the exploitation of our attributes and our abilities to perform will be the foundation for restarting our economy and keeping it going in the future. If we don’t take the proper steps to restart our economy, WE the People of the CNMI will be right back in austerity for something else that has gone wrong in China and/or our leadership.  Presently, we (the CNMI) are figuratively like a top-heavy truck going down the Freeway that can tilt over for any number of reasons like wind (economic recession in China and/or political problems between China and America), a truck about to run out of gas (from the inability of IPI to perform and live up to their contract), a truck that flips over from turning too sharp (poor driving leadership in the CNMI to control the business with IPI). Our only option is to start working on NEW Leadership (Democrats) and the expansion of our economy in the days after Covid-19 and I hope this won’t be another “I Told You So” as there is real hope for change and improvements on the horizon in the mid-term elections for the People! To be continued: One People One Direction.

The writer is a resident of Kagman, Saipan.

 

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