Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands Carrying $472 Million In Debt

15 types of debt 'cannot be simply written off'

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 15, 2017) – Representative Edwin Propst said he has learned that the CNMI government has 15 types of debts which “cannot be simply written off.”

Propst recently asked the Legislature’s fiscal analyst, Dave Demapan, to provide a list of the government’s outstanding debts, including land compensation payments and judgments.

Demapan said the CNMI government’s total debt as of Sept. 30, 2014 was $471,758,182. Of this amount, $136.4 million was current while $335.3 million was long-term debt.

He said the government debts included bonds payable, notes payable, claims and judgments, compensated absences, accounts payable, tax rebates payables, recovery rebate payable, accrued interest payable, other liabilities and accrual, due to pension and trust fund, due to external parties, due to component units, unearned revenues, landfill closure and obligation under the Settlement Funds.

According to Demapan, bonds payable are the series of general obligation refunding bonds, ending balance as of Sept. 30, 2014 while notes payable are related to debts owed to the Commonwealth Development Authority and the Marianas Public Land Trust.

He added that claims and judgments include the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. stipulated orders; accounts payable are debts owed to vendors and suppliers while unearned revenues are resources collected in advance that have not been realized and recorded as a liability.

“We have several debts that continue to collect interest, thereby growing our debt,” Propst said. “That is one of the reasons we must do what we can to pay it down.”

He added, “Governments in general have a bad habit of spending and not saving. We need to challenge the status quo and do it differently. What would be most ideal is if we have economic experts who can help our government plan ahead and plan properly. But in order to accomplish this, we must all do our best to be frugal with taxpayer dollars and be as fiscally conservative as possible. Salary increases should not be considered until we have paid down some of our debt.”

Propst has introduced a bill that will remove the salary increase of elected officials mandated by Public Law 19-83, whose constitutionality has also been challenged in Superior Court by the Attorney General’s Office.

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