AFTER YEAR OF ‘SACRIFICES,’ CNMI LOOKS FORWARD

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Governor says challenges easily become opportunities

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 30, 2011) – Government employees endured another year of reduced work hours even as struggling businesses try to comply with new federal rules in this year described by CNMI leaders as full of sacrifices.

"We have constantly been sacrificing," Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said in an interview on Wednesday.

"We have been making decision to keep up with our financial obligations and pay vendors and contracts. It has been tremendously very challenging," he added.

But Fitial said "my interpretation of these challenges is that they are easily converted into opportunities."

Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos yesterday said in 2011,"it’s really evident that everyone is finding it difficult to survive, and we want to get out of this thing.

We just need to find new sources of revenue to address many of these situations."

He said the financial performance report that the administration will issue soon "is not going to be favorable."

"We took a hit of about $20 million in resources. So we had to reduce expenses and then of course we did a proportional reduction for every activity. So it was a challenge and we hope that it will be over that," he added.

Early next week, the administration will have to determine what are the available resources and how government operations can be funded.

Positive signs

Inos said they see positive signs that the CNMI’s economy may recover soon.

More flights, he noted, are coming in and increased tourism activities are starting to take place. He also heard about a potential investment in Marpi.

He was referring to the Sunshine 100 Real Estate Group whose representatives were here two weeks ago.

"So those are good signs that at least tell you that there are people who are still interested in investing [here.]" Inos said.

Work hard

For his part, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan praised CNMI government employees who continue to work hard despite their reduced work hours.

"I continue to be amazed by the perseverance of so many of our people. We have so many great government employees who continue to work hard despite the pay cuts. I still see so many people in the private sector who continue to work hard to provide outstanding service and great products to their customers," he added.

This year, he said, was challenging for the CNMI and the entire nation.

"And while we will still face difficult challenges in 2012, I promise that I shall continue to work hard to bring as much help as I can to our islands and for our people," Sablan added.

Work together

Senate President Paul A. Manglona, Ind.-Rota, said when people are really suffering, "I think that is the time when you also see people coming together."

He added, "I am very hopeful that in the New Year, all our leaders, the governor, lieutenant governor, the House speaker and members of House and Senate, as well as everyone who makes decisions affecting the commonwealth, will come together," he said.

The CNMI, he said is "at the end of its rope and everyone realizes this."

Manglona said he is confident that "we can only go up this coming year."

2012 is also an election year so CNMI officials should put aside their political differences and personal differences, said the CNMI’s longest serving lawmaker.

"We have no choice and for that reason I am hopeful and that is one of the reasons that in the Senate we took a very critical issue, the Retirement Fund, and decided to tackle it at the end of the year," he said.

First elected in 1987, Manglona has yet to say whether he will seek an eighth term.

Rep. Stanley T. Torres, Ind.-Saipan. said although there was no government shutdown like in 2010, the people are still suffering.

Hopefully, by next year something would change for the better, Torres said adding that lawmakers, too, have to sacrifice a lot.

Press Secretary Angel A. Demapan said "no doubt, the people have endured a tough year in 2011 with the government’s economic struggles as well as the impact of the CW regulations on the employers and guest workers."

However, he said, despite these challenges, "we continue to exert every effort to ensure that the government is able to deliver essential services to the public."

Demapan said the New Year "will be a critical time for everyone to come together as a united community to address most pressing challenges and to collectively formulate sensible solutions."

He added, "We have all learned, in one way or another, how to adapt and how to survive. Looking ahead to 2012, I hope we can all share the same spirit to achieve that prosperous New Year we wish for at this time of the holiday season."

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