29 Dec 2017
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
THE biggest government budget in CNMI history is among the good things that happened in the commonwealth this year, according to lawmakers interviewed by Variety.
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios said the best thing about the year is the economic growth that allows the government to pay off some of its outstanding obligations.
“With our economy on the upswing, we were able to do so much and address past and pending issues like debts and judgments. We also have more resources now for public services like schools and the hospital, and we have expanded some services. I hope that we can sustain this growth and at the same time address issues with our infrastructure. We need balanced economic growth.”
Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, for his part, said the best thing about 2017 is that “we were able to appropriate funds for land compensation, the retirees’ pensions and other liabilities. We now have the resources to address long-standing and short-term obligations. It’s a good feeling that we’re able to do that.”
He said the “worst thing” about the year was the decision of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to reduce the CW cap by 3,000.
“I hope the U.S. Congress is able to give the CNMI some consideration as far as our uniqueness is concerned. We should not be penalized as we are doing our part to generate local revenues so we won’t have to depend heavily on federal handouts. But that ability is now in jeopardy. I hope that members of the U.S. Congress realize that we’re not doing anything wrong. We’ve been doing the right thing. All we can do is appeal to them and help them understand — give them the facts and the data and hope they look at them seriously.”
Rep. Angel Demapan, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, said among the highlights of 2017 was the enactment of the largest government budget in CNMI history.
“It’s not just an act of the Legislature but it’s reflective of how far we’ve come as a commonwealth and how far we’ve improved our economy. It really tells a story of the progress we’ve achieved and it’s the best thing that happened for our people. It means more jobs and more opportunities for families to do things together because there’s greater spending power. I am hopeful that we can continue the upward trend in the new year and have another year as great as this one.”
Sen. Sixto Igisomar said the fact that the CNMI did not experience a major catastrophe comparable to Typhoon Soudelor in 2015 is something to be thankful for.
“I would also say that there were a lot of other good things that transpired in 2017. We also had a big budget and we were able to provide a lot of support to government agencies and non-profit organizations. We did a lot better than in prior years, and I hope and pray that it will be even better next year. I know some went through a lot of hardships with respect to the changes of policies and procedures in hiring people, and some went through a lot of hardships in putting food on the table. I pray that our leaders will continue to work together to make things better next year.”
Legislative Bureau Director and former Rep. Antonio Sablan said the administration and the Legislature are pursuing an economic plan “that we put together in previous years, and we did not divert from that plan. As a result we continue to realize its benefits which have allowed us to retire long-standing obligations including land-compensation claims, utility bills and our retirees’ pensions while providing necessary support for the hospital, education and public safety.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/101176-2017-was-a-good-year