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Editorials | All talk, no action

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Where are the bills?

FOR the past few weeks or months, there has been a steady stream of court and other news stories indicating that all is not well with the Saipan casino investor. Anyone who is not a politician seeking office this year can already conclude that Imperial Pacific International is facing financial oblivion. It cannot meet its obligations to the NMI government, to its vendors, or even to some or most of its employees.

Meantime, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism industry remains in a coma and the local economy is at virtual standstill. So while some lawmakers conduct hearings and meetings and express their concerns and send letters of “inquiries” to ask questions, including those whose answers we already know — we hope that other lawmakers are aware of another pressing issue facing the people of the NMI: their government’s ability to pay its obligations.

For example, how long can furloughed government employees avail themselves of federal assistance? What about funding for PSS? NMC? Medical referrals? The court system, DPS, Corrections? Utilities? The retirees’ pensions?

Are we placing our bet on another influx of federal assistance? (It is a federal election year after all and there may be another federal Covid-19 relief package before November.) As for NMI tourism, can it re-open next month? Will tourists come back?

Through the Fiscal Response Summit, the administration has already listed specific measures that reflect the NMI’s awful financial reality, and these include a permanent reduction in the number of government personnel and tax/fee hikes.

So where are the bills that have to be passed and enacted into law to make it happen? Who will introduce them? Or do lawmakers need to conduct more hearings and/or meetings and swear in witnesses first?

So far, all talk, but still no walk.

More talk

 SOME politicians say they are concerned for the furloughed and/or laid off employees. OK. But as a creative-writing teacher would tell her students: show, don’t tell. Do you want the government to re-hire the furloughed and/or laid off employees? Then if you’re a legislator, you could introduce the necessary bill which, of course, must include an actual funding source.

You’re also “concerned” about the Public School System. That’s great. For fiscal year 2020, PSS originally requested a $66.8 million budget. In March 2020, the administration informed lawmakers that from $148.8 million, the NMI government’s budget amount for FY 2020 was down to $77.1 million.

Again, where are the lawmakers who will introduce the bill appropriating the amount that PSS says it needs? They say PSS deserves more funding. Appropriating public funds is one of the primary tasks of lawmakers. What exactly are they doing — not just saying — to give PSS the funds that lawmakers say PSS should have for the sake of the teachers! And the children! And the future!

We are quite sure that everyone was touched, if not moved, by the seemingly endless expressions of concerns from lawmakers who can introduce legislation to solve the problems that they are so worried about.

But first…more hearings? More meetings? More talking?

 

 

 

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