Marianas Variety

SAIPAN, CNMI (March 5, 2010) – The Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC) had to hire a competent water and wastewater manager because the feds required it. Now Bruce Megarr may not be Mr. Congeniality but he gets things done.

Even CUC’s legion of critics have acknowledged the improved performance of his division since he got on board.

But CUC, like most government agencies, is riddled with politics, and expertise counts to nothing if you don’t know how to smooch the you-know-what of you-know-who. You must not only know how to do your job; you should also know how to play the game.

Megarr, however, is too busy performing his tasks to brownnose. Hence, his contract may not be renewed. He knows it. Hence, his recent disclosures regarding the poor leadership of CUC’s higher-ups.

Megarr is highly qualified for his job and can find new employment easily. The termination of his contract will be our loss, not his. We’re the ones who will end up saddled, once again, with mediocre management at an agency providing critical public services.

Junket by any other name

THE dictionary defines a junket as "a trip…by an official…paid out of public funds and ostensibly to obtain information." In other words, all taxpayer-paid trips are junkets. Not all travels are a waste of money, but most of the trips taken by CNMI officials definitely are.

Indeed, since the economy went into a nosedive 12 years ago, countless CNMI officials have been going on junkets to "bring in new investors and tourists." They have been to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Russia, the Philippines, the U.S. — everywhere, it seems, but the economy has not improved; it continues to get worse, and the arrival rate is still declining.

Yet CNMI officials continue to defend their junkets by insulting the people’s intelligence. Free travel is not a "duty" but one of the perks of being in office. It’s nice to go off-island and not pay for it. It’s not a "hardship." And it’s not being done "for the welfare of the commonwealth."

Government officials go on junkets and waste taxpayer money because they can, and because even though some may complain about it, they get re-elected anyway.

What about tourism?

THE officials who are already, well, salivating over the prospects of the military buildup no longer care about the plunging arrival numbers. They seem to be more fixated now on inviting the Marines than bringing in more tourists.

But the military buildup has yet happen and its implementation remains problematic. Meanwhile, the local economy is still based on tourism, and tourists are going somewhere else.

The CNMI, at one point, used to attract over 700,000 tourists a year. Now we’re lucky to get half of that figure. What happened? How did it happen? What must be done to improve the arrival rate?

These questions have been asked many times before, and so many suggestions and recommendations have already been made, yet all we hear are reasons why the CNMI can’t attract more tourists and not how it can.

Too much talk, "nating" walk.

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