NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

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By Sheila D. Amor

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (June 24, 1998 - The Saipan Tribune)---The Northern Marianas College, through its Business Development Center, is spearheading a bold move to define the future of the Northern Marianas.

Dubbing the project "Planning for the Future," the college is set to convene the first economic development conference in the CNMI and in Micronesia.

"Yes, this is the first-ever, but what we would like to do is to see how it can boost our economy," said NMC President Agnes McPhetres.

This first economic summit will include three phases.

Scheduled to be held in March or April of next year, the first phase will hear a broad discussion of economic development alternatives leading to a Request for Proposal for a defined study. It will then convene another group of experts to evaluate available data and to produce policy recommendations for local adoption.

According to McPhetres, the CNMI plans to gather economic experts from all over Asia and from the mainland to this summit. Each individual is expected to share with the local community his expertise in bringing about an economic miracle.

The college is currently securing funding from local sources and from the Interior Department to prepare for this ambitious forum.

"We need to bring these experts. It is a very important conference because we are entering into year 2001 and if the CNMI doesn't have the plan we will not go anywhere. We have been moving forward but we really don't have the blueprint as to the type of economy we want to have."

During its presentation at the Rotary meeting yesterday, NMC Intern Sharon B. Tudela emphasized the importance of the role of the local community to start the wheels of its economic activity turning. Tudela, who earned her master's degree in International Development from George Washington University, is working with the local planning committee to prepare for this major economic gathering.

Tudela said the summit will present sustainable alternatives to help overcome the CNMI's dependence on a volatile tourism industry and from its garment industry, but the local community will make the decision on its economic direction.

It will also need to expand local infrastructure and develop a roster of indigenous human resource.

The CNMI, however, enjoys huge advantages, McPhetres pointed out. "We are situated in a very important location here. We are the closest to Asia and have the best political status. If we can use these strengths, I think we could make it and benefit everybody."

http://www.tribune.co.mp

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