Friday, December 4, 2009

"Where Is Our Great Wall" said

This excellent comment was buried in one of the threads, and I think it deserves a lot more light of day.

I agree with you Jane regarding the romantisizing of our recent past. I left this island nearly 20 years ago and just recently returned.

I don't even see anything close to the Great Wall or the Pyramids (other than the empty GIG that was once a thriving disco that rivaled anything in the region). The La Fiesta was not dependent on cheap labor and has been empty for years while we had access to cheap labor.

What I did see upon returning has been eye opening and far from anything I would revel in and consider great development and a prosperous economy. I found destroyed reefs and barren lagoons (in comparison to 20+ years ago). I found empty shells of 30 plus garment warehouses. I found empty strip malls. I discovered that around 70% of those I grew up with and went to school out here with no longer live here. They have families elsewhere. I saw that nearly 90% of the waitstaff, front desk clerks, bartenders,etc were guest workers (I was a waiter 25 years ago and my pals were front desk and housekeeping). I noticed that all the Mom and Pop stores that had once been owned by me and my friends Moms and Pops were now owned by foreign investors. Diego's Mart, Pop's Store, Morgans Mini Mart, Carmen Safeway, Tenda Store, Aldan's Gas Station, Farmers Market, etc. Same with the bars and restaurants like Ship Ashore, House of Chang, Chamorro Village, Town & Country, Chamorro House, etc are all replaced with foreign owned businesses. I noticed the streets that used to be filled with Japanese Tourist were now empty. The golf courses designed 20 years ago by Jack Nicolas were now unkempt. The hotels that used to average 90% occupancy now ran at around 50%. The Jets that used to fly between here and Guam are now prop plans. Direct flights to Japan that used to fly in and out 3 times a day down to 2 twice a week.

Where is our great wall? We had none. 30 years ago we could have built something great.

We had geographic edge with Japan only 2 hours away. We had great resorts and golf courses that were maintained and rivaled those in other areas of the pacific. We had relationships with agents and airlines that secured set routes and put us int he position to be the HUB for the Pacific region. We had locally run businesses and local workers at all levels that kept the money in our economy and didn't funnel it all out. We had a solid foundation birthed of the Covenant to maintain all of this and grow to be prosperous.

What happened?

We got greedy and we got led by some terribly short sighted leaders.

Our downfall is not to blamed on federalization of immigration. It is blamed on our own doing. We embraced garment. We spent millions on lobbyist. We exploited foreign labor and used guest workers to replace local labor rather than filling gaps and instead replaced our local workforce. We pulled in foreign businesses at the expense of local entrepreneurship. We doled out public land to foreign investors instead of catering to local investors. Our leaders did this because they could negotiate kickbacks and become middlemen in the schemes. Do land swaps and make millions overnight.

3 days ago the federal government took control of immigration in the CNMI; 27 years ago we destroyed this economy.

December 1, 2009 2:11 PM

I like this comment, not because it starts out by agreeing with me, but because of the specifics. It makes me sad, though, to contemplate the lost opportunities. Still hoping that--yes, we can--make it right.


The Saipan Blogger said...

The writer is very gracious in saying that it was "our" doing. Nobody younger than 30 did this. It was the baby boomer generation.

Anonymous said...

i wish i knew how to convey what is said in this blog post to all of the people residing on this little island.

what medium could be used?

could we create a text book of some type with at timeline and factual data. a thorough history of the Commonwealth since its inception. a synopsis of each elected leader and what contribution they made to the CNMI (good and bad). economic indicators over the past 30 years. population data. could we place it into ever senior high school class?

i truly believe that the more we know the more we care.

over the last 3 years i have heard our elected officials and members of the private business community speak of economic disaster that will come along with federal immigration takeover. i still hear it today.

have they been so blind to the slow decay that these islands have been enduring economically, environmentally and socially for the last 20 years?

we have 5 years to go with the same elected leaders and the outspoken portion of the private business community that seems to still be stuck believing that things have been super great over the last 20 years and that nothing other than federal immigration control and federal wage implementation are dangers to our future wellbeing.

they bang drums in opposition to those changes but are silent when it comes to looking at what our own government is doing. mva, commerce, dpl, ago all need to be looked at. do we have local policies in place that follow a set plan? do we have a set plan? do we have a functional land use plan? do we have a local vision set forth for our community?

so many questions. just a matter of time before we find some answers. i believe we can.

Anonymous said...

It was the baby boomer generation that did this? The generation X is in there like dirty shirts too. Want names?

Anonymous said...

I was very moved by that comment, too, Jane. I was also quite struck by how much his/her criticisms of past leadership centered on Fitial. No one was more instrumental in the establishment of the guest worker system (authored the original Nonresident Workers Act), the garment industry (partnered with Willie Tan and authored the Foreign Investment Act), ties to Abramoff ("once a friend, always a friend), and the replacement of local workers and local businesses over the years than Fitial.

Maybe it will take five more years of suffering under bad leadership before we can finally turn our collective backs against it. I can only hope we open our eyes sooner than that.

Anonymous said...

The islands will continue to go downhill until the voters decide to turn their backs on the old ways and think critically about a coherent, sustainable vision for our home.

Last month, that did not happen.

Now Angelo, our erstwhile mayoral candidate, has seen the writing on the wall and is getting the hell out of Dodge. It's an enormous loss to the island, but altogether symptomatic of the brain drain that is happening and will speed up now as most of the young people with any promise and ambition decide to head to greener pastures.

Things will only get worse now.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Tina Sablan may head off to law school now that she lost the Senate race. If that happens, we'll have exactly ZERO transparency and accountability in our elected officials.

baby boomer said...

"Old age and treachery outlives youth and skill any day"