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By Jude O. Marfil

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 17) –The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands government hopes to attract some 150 executives from multinational companies and businessmen in the Asia and the Pacific regions will converge on Saipan from May 19 to 21 this year.

Called the Marianas Business Roundtable, the three-day conference seeks to boost foreign and local investments in the CNMI.

"We plan to bring CEOs (chief executive officers) together in the region to give a regional perspective and inject some global ideas that may be of use to local businessmen here. We want to be able to expand our ideas to be competitive in the advent of globalization," said Alex A. Sablan, Saipan Chamber of Commerce president.

Sablan said they are looking at inviting executives from six different industries namely retail and wholeselling; manufacturing; military; information technology; finance and business; and tourism.

These executives and businessmen will be coming from neighboring Pacific islands, Guam, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and the United States.

During the three-day conference, businessmen and executives will hold breakout sessions, where they are expected to conduct no-holds barred discussions on the sector they represent.

Sablan said there will also be a cocktail reception to welcome the guests; a banquet and a gold tournament.

"This will allow them to mingle and perhaps exchange business cards as well exchange ideas that will hopefully create some major deals," said Sablan.

"We need a way to connect. We would rather invite people who already have a stake here in the CNMI because they have a personal attachment to the islands. We want to link these CEOs with local managers," Sablan added.

The SCC president said it is about time local businessmen take a more pro-active stance in stimulating investments in the islands.

"We want to send a message to the government and lawmakers to do something about the cost of doing business in the CNMI, which is very expensive," he said.

Businessmen on the islands have projected a bleak outlook for the economy in the CNMI this year following the removal of the restriction in the international trade of garments and textiles.

The Garment manufacturing sector has been one of the CNMI’s main economic drivers, contributing about $39.2 million in users’ fees in 2003. This represents about 18 percent of the CNMI’s proposed budget for 2005 amounting to $218 million.

Reports show that Japanese investors are pulling out of the CNMI owing to the "adverse" business scenario.

January 17, 2005

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