HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 3) - When presenting a report on the outlook for Guam's economy, Bank of Hawaii economist Wali Osman emphasized the difficulty of putting together a forecast that was more than a guess because the government of Guam hasn't collected necessary data.

The lack of economic numbers needed to make sound, long-term plans and forecasts has existed for years. Computer problems at the Department of Administration beginning in 1999 take a lot of blame for the failure to collect and compile the data.

The absence of that vital information not only has made it difficult for the government of Guam to make decisions, but has given businesses and investors pause. What company would decide to commit any significant amount of investment without knowing what it was getting into?

It's difficult, at best, to be fiscally responsible when spending taxpayer money and running the government without basic economic data. Setting fiscal policy requires knowing specifics about the economy, statistics such as employment and unemployment, income levels, housing, retail sales, the consumer price index, inflation and other economic indicators.

It's imperative that our elected officials continue and expand on efforts to improve the collecting and compiling of this precious economic data. It's not a problem that those in leadership positions can afford to ignore or put off until some vague point in the future.

GovGuam is getting assistance from the Department of Interior to build a new and improved financial management system. The federal agency also is providing a grant to help us prepare an economic plan, according to Gov. Felix Camacho. Our elected officials must do their part to make both a reality in the very near term.

There can be no dragging of feet in this matter. Having the necessary economic data is imperative and must be treated seriously and proactively. If other measures and/or resources are needed to help fill in the numbers gap, our elected officials have a duty and responsibility to the people who put them in office to ensure they are provided.

This lapse in fiscal responsibility must be corrected as soon as possible.

November 3, 2003

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