GUAM MILITARY BUILDUP A BILLION-DOLLAR BUST

Editorial

Marianas Business Journal

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (July 4, 2011) – In the past couple of years, the military buildup made so many promises - economic growth, an explosive number of jobs, plus a billion dollars that the United States and Japan agreed to deliver to Guam.

This projected image of what Guam would be in the coming years turned out to be a grand delusion.

Last week, reality bit back with a series of bleak news. Guam's unemployment rate spiked by 13.3 percent in March, which is nearly double the rate in September 2006. According to the Department of Labor's survey, nearly 10,000 people are unemployed, compared to the 6,500 in September 2009.

But figures, according to Gov. Eddie B. Calvo, represent an ambiguous reality. The "good news," he told a press conference last week, is that the work-eligible segment of the population posted an increase of 6,000.

But still, this doesn't assuage the real bad news: there are not enough jobs to accommodate the available local workforce. Hundreds of new graduates have joined the pack of old jobseekers jostling for the limited positions open in the market.

Now that the United States and Japan have decided to spread out the military buildup over a longer period of time, fewer workers will be needed to fill the construction job market. Several companies have hit the brakes on their existing projects.

Exacerbating the uncertainties surrounding the military buildup plans is the impact of Japan's Great Disasters on Guam's tourism, which posted dismal figures. May visitor arrivals show a 20.4 percent decline.

This is the consequence of Guam's dependence on external industries.

The question now is, how much worse will it get?

The real good news is, we have been seeing a lot of individuals and families that have been initiating their own businesses. Instead of waiting for someone to give them jobs, they create their own jobs, and subsequently, they create jobs for others.

Developing the micro-enterprise industry by offering incentives is something that the government needs to look into seriously.

The government can take a cue from the initiatives of the private sector such as the Agana Shopping Center, which launched the Agana Marketplace business incubator. Offering more loan programs and tax breaks for business newbies can be a good start.

This industry, if nurtured, can become the backbone of the local economy.

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