Guam’s grew .2 percent in 2017, which follows an increase of .3 percent in 2016, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. From $4.8 billion in 2010, Guam’s gross domestic product went up to $5.8 billion in 2017. “The growth in the Guam economy reflected an increase in consumer spending, which rose for the 7th year in a row. The increase in consumer spending largely reflected growth in retail trade activity,” the BEA said.
For comparison, real GDP for the United States increased 2.2 percent in 2017 after increasing 1.6 percent in 2016.
Overall, investment spending contributed negatively to the economy. Although territorial government spending on construction and equipment increased, this growth was offset by a decline in construction activity on Defense and private sector projects, the bureau said. BEA noted that exports of services, which consists primarily of spending by tourists, decreased after increasing for three years. Although total arrivals increased slightly, tourism spending decreased, reflecting declines in average spending by visitors.
“My goal from the very beginning was to take what we started with – more than $300 million in deficit with millions owed in tax refunds and an economy that was stuck in a rut — and turn that around. I wanted to ensure we laid a foundation from which future administrations would have solid footing for more growth,” Gov. Eddie Calvo said.
Calvo noted that the report reflected some of the challenges the island has faced with the sudden reversal of the H-2B visa policy by the Obama Administration. “We knew that it was going to impact our economy, which is why we fought so hard to get the federal government to recognize that increasing activity requires an augmentation of our local skilled labor workforce,” Calvo said. The bureau reported increased spending on construction and equipment, but those numbers were offset by the decline in construction activity on Defense and private-sector projects. There has been some good news on the H-2B front, however. USCIS approved 38 foreign workers for the Tsubaki Hotel project, which is the first private-sector project to receive such approval under the NDAA. Governor Calvo and Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio have pushed the federal government to acknowledge that projects outside military instillations should be allowed foreign skilled laborers. Additionally, JMI Edison, which filed a request for 22 workers under the lawsuit that was brought to the District Court of Guam, was approved for 22 workers. “It looks as though the federal government is starting to understand Guam’s need for additional skilled workers, which means construction projects that have been or could have been delayed will finally be able to move forward - and that is great news for our economy,” Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio said. “The increase in GDP was welcome news as 2017 was a year that looked rather bleak for the local economy,” GEDA administrator Jay Rojas said. With the reduction in alien labor workforce for our military construction and the threats from North Korea on our tourism industry, GDP growth at year end shows the resiliency of Guam’s economy. “With over $2.1 billion in military projects still remaining to be awarded or breaking ground. Guam’s economic position will only get stronger in the future years to come,” added Rojas.