No duplication of functions, says planning director

THE new Office of Planning and Development will not duplicate the functions of other government agencies that regulate development projects in the CNMI, OPD Director Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong said.

The OPD, which has a budget of $420,000, is “a sort of clearinghouse for all development plans,” and will work in coordination with other government agencies, Ogumoro-Uludong said in an interview after his presentation on Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at Giovanni’s Restaurant of Hyatt Regency Saipan.

He said the OPD will also make recommendations to the government.

Public Law 20-20, which created the office, states that “all master plans, development plans, long-range plans and the like, prepared by public agencies, shall be submitted to the [OPD] director for processing as part of the comprehensive planning program.”

For the revitalization of Garapan, Ogumoro-Uludong said the OPD has been collaborating with other agencies that oversee the project.

“Although the zoning office is also very involved in the revitalization plan, we bring in all the other players to the table, we review the existing plan and move from there,” he said.

“We are here to help streamline the process…. The idea is to do something that really takes into consideration all various factors surrounding a development project.”

In a statement, Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said “with the surge of economic development in the CNMI over the last couple of years, it is the goal of this administration and the Legislature to properly plan out a sustainable path to prosperity on all three islands….  [The] OPD intends to complement existing planning efforts of various agencies by streamlining the process because some of these plans have some overlaps. It is a central office that will define the measure of what sustainable growth is through a team of planners, economists and industry experts, and ensure that agencies will communicate with each other.”

Ogumoro-Uludong said his office is authorized to apply for and accept grants, contract for any professional service, conduct studies, surveys, research and analysis relating to physical, human, social and economic development and publish result.

“We will develop and recommend policies that promote the improvement of planning activities,” he added.

The OPD director, who is appointed by the governor, will also “supervise the execution of the responsibilities of the Advisory Council for Planning and Development.”

The council will consist of the OPD director, the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality administrator, the secretary of the Department of Public Lands, the secretary of the Department of Public Works, the secretary of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the secretary of the Department of Commerce, the zoning administrator, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director, the Marianas Visitors Authority managing director, representatives from the Offices of the Mayors of Saipan and the Northern Islands, and the heads of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce   and the governor’s Strategic Economic Development Council.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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