Crunch time, a round of déjà vu

Commonwealth government struggling to keep afloat

CNMI lawmakers discuss austerity measures

CNMI State Public School System Commissioner Glenn Muna, M.Ed., left, explains to members of the House Ways and Means Committee their cost-containment measures in light of the government's imposition of austerity while CNMI State Board of Education Secretary/Treasurer Herman M. Atalig of Rota looks on during a budget hearing at the House chamber at the Hon. Jesus P. Mafnas Memorial Building in Capital Hill last May. Photo by Jon Perez

Saipan — The CNMI government is pinching pennies, reminiscent of circa 2000s under Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s administration. Austerity Fridays. Belt-tightening. These stories are all too familiar. The CNMI has been here before, following the demise of the garment industry. Years later, the controversial casino industry brought the economy back to life.

Then came the typhoons in 2018.

Now a veteran of an up-and-down economy, the CNMI government has gone into a 72-hour work schedule. Earlier this year, CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has slashed the 2019 budget by nearly $30 million to help lessen the impact of the Commonwealth’s current fiscal predicament. The government has make do with $141.5 million budget for the rest of the fiscal year, down from original appropriation of $258 million.

“While the CNMI continues to show signs of recovery through improved overall collections from the previous quarter, our administration is taking the necessary steps to curb government spending as our economy recovers,” Torres said in a press statement during the budget cut announcement.

Typhoon Yutu devastation