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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (December 17, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---Although the audited $57.3 million cumulative deficit as of the end of fiscal year 1997 was a product of the past administrations’ apparent "mismanagement," Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio has pledged to "do everything" to retire it in two fiscal year’s time.

"We have to follow the Constitution, but, as of now, we don’t know how we are going to retire the $57.3 million deficit. But we are looking into that," the chief executive said yesterday.

The Constitution requires the retirement of deficits within two fiscal years.

Mike Sablan, the Governor’s special finance advisor, at the same time said the Governor’s commitment to retire the deficit is not dictated by what the Constitution requires.

"The need to reduce government expenditures and retiring the deficit is not driven by the Constitution’s provision, but this administration believes that it is the prudent thing to do," said Sablan.

The new administration has so far paid off $27 million in outstanding bills that it inherited.

Sablan, however, said that this does not automatically mean that the government only has around $30.3 million deficit to retire by September next year.

"The deficit is a complicated concept. That $27 million is not just meant for the deficit, but most of it are for other outstanding accounts. A lot of vendors are still waiting to be paid since 1996," the finance advisor said.

The figures for October to December 1997 are expected to increase the $57.3 million deficit.

Sablan also explained that the implementation of various austerity measures, which resulted in government expenditure cuts, also addressed the retirement of the deficit long before the audit report came out.

"Our government operation today is $20 million less than the previous year. Last year, we had $242 million and now we have $222 million," he disclosed.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Marianas Variety.

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