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By Aldwin R. Fajardo

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (January 13, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---The garment manufacturing industry has proven its might, contributing over $39 million in total revenues to the public coffers during fiscal year 1999, a report from the Office of the Governor showed.

The $39 million generated by the government from the garment certification fees during the last fiscal year was 6.68 percent higher than the previous year's $36 million.

During the period under review, the Commonwealth generated only about $19.9 million from excise taxes and at least $5.9 million from hotel occupancy tax collections.

Income taxes were the main source of revenue for the government, contributing more than $58 million, while business gross revenue tax replenished public coffers with some $54 million.

The apparel manufacturing industry has emerged as the primary source of government revenues during a time when tourism is down.

Government officials, acknowledging the contributions of the business sector to public coffers, said the government is obligated to provide an environment conducive for investors and a stable set of policies aimed at encouraging the infusion of fresh investments into the CNMI to stir economic growth.

Saipan's garment manufacturing industry remains unfazed by both the Asian crisis and pressures from the U.S. mainland.

The Quarterly Economic Review report released by the CNMI Department of Commerce noted that total apparel exports from January to March last year reached $361 million.

The figure is over $60 million higher than the 1997 first quarter tally of $295 million, or the average $260 million quarterly garment export last year.

For the whole of 1998, Saipan's garment manufacturing industry exported over $1 billion worth of apparel products. Major buyers of Saipan-made apparel products include the Gap, Liz Claiborne, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren's Polo line.

The garment industry is expected to pull out from the CNMI in seven years when the agreement, which created the World Trade Organization, takes effect. Akin to this, the United States will have to phase out its garment quota system by 2005.

Some garment manufacturing companies have already started establishing factories in Mexico, Cambodia, the Philippines and other Latin American countries.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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