Marianas Variety

SAIPAN, CNMI (Dec. 18, 2009) - THOUGH the Fitial administration won the gubernatorial election a few weeks ago, there was no euphoria in the streets, and certainly no marked uptick of confidence that things will get any better any time in the near future in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

One thing the governor has articulated like a mantra is the need for a 64-hour work-week, a plan that should be made permanent. Government employees can and did adjust to the reduced hours, and if the administration can simply require that lunch hours are covered, there should be no additional hardship. The plain fact is that the employees of this obese government are more productive with a more restricted number of hours to complete their work.

This Legislature argued that no austerity plan should go into effect until the administration stops hiring. In the new order, which will be installed next month, a shorter work-week will be adopted by the new Legislature, but when will the new hires go? What government services will be given away to cut costs even more?

Soon thereafter, new utility rates will go into effect and the unconstitutional arrangement will continue with the governor exerting control over the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

All the while, financial pressure will be applied on the administration as more Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fines are levied on a utility long incapable of maintaining standards or making long-term improvements. Other problems will no doubt emerge, as it has over the years, and the aggravations will mount.

Eventually, the people of the commonwealth will witness the wholesale "give away" of government assets to friends and cronies to meet political obligations to long-time supporters and to the new ones enlisted in this election year. First to go will be the most competent employees, either through firing or terminations for political reasons, then services will decline even further.

But voters, of course, will have no one to blame but themselves for the predicament that will soon become evident to, unfortunately, everyone.

With the federal immigration takeover all but complete, with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on litigation that only resulted in the re-issuance of the disputed regulations, nothing different has happened for anyone except that it is harder to get in and out of the commonwealth. It wouldn’t seem to matter because tourism has plunged to never-before-seen low numbers anyway.

And so at the end of the 2009, with a major election over and the old team in place, there is no more to be done but to wait and see what "surprises" are in store next year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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