Marianas Variety

SAIPAN, CNMI (July 9) – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Constitution mandates a balanced budget and requires that deficits must be retired within a short but certain timeframe. The Planning and Budgeting Act states that the executive branch must notify the Legislature when revenues dip below a certain level, and adjust the budget along the way.

Yet the government’s deficit continues to grow even as you read this editorial. Why? Because despite all these beautiful laws and strict rules, public officials never take appropriate action — unless they really have to, and by then the problem is already way too big to handle, requiring painful measures that politicians would rather not implement, lest they lose their own overcompensated jobs.

The CNMI government is now at that stage where it has no choice but to make spending cuts unthinkable a decade ago. When making these cuts, however, it is important to identify the bounds of essential government service. Most would agree that "essential" includes public safety, public education and public health. Almost everything else is dispensable.

But besides reducing its expenses — because it has to, and it must — the government should also create an environment in which commerce thrives, allowing for better employment, business and recreational opportunities for residents, and a safer and healthier environment for residents and tourists alike.

All elected officials, past or present, will say that they, too, share this goal. But, as in the implementation of budgetary laws, saying is one thing, doing is another. And this is one explanation why, for example, everyone must pay more for utilities, however undependable they are now. The community continues to pay for unqualified and inexperienced people to manage key functions. This practice, as more and more people are now realizing, will always cost taxpayers more money in the end.

It is, however, not enough that the people are now beginning to question bad governance. They should also put an end to it.

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