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License renewals in decline as well

By Walter J. Sutherland SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 31, 2010) - The number of new businesses setting up shop in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) continues to plummet.

Business Licensing Officer Pam Halstead estimates a little over 30 percent drop in the average number of new business license applications issued each month compared to last year's.

"It's down in some cases by as much as 50 percent," she added, referring to month-by-month comparisons.

Renewal of business licenses have been on the decline annually since 2005, but the best way to monitor the conditions of the business environment is to look at the data for new business license applications.

Last January, only 39 new business licenses were issued compared to the 68 issued in January 2009. This translates to a 42.6 percent drop.

In February, only 44 new business licenses were issued compared to 62 in the same month last year-a 29 percent decline.

According to Halstead, these numbers have been falling since 2005, when the Commonwealth recorded the highest surge in new business licenses issued at 1,096.

She noted that there was a significant drop in the quantity of new business applications issued in 2007 and 2008.

In 2007, an annual total of 1,035 new business licenses were issued compared to 657 for all of 2008.

A total of 618 new business licenses were issued altogether last year and this trend is expected to continue throughout 2010.

With the final data for the month of March still being finalized, 34 new business licenses have so far been issued this month since March 18, 2010.

"Many of these new ventures consist of small-scale businesses and consulting establishments," said Halstead.

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