2019 has been a busy year for Guam tourism. The Guam Visitors Bureau announced in October that the final two months of Fiscal Year 2019 broke new records, resulting in Guam achieving its best fiscal year to date with a total of 1.63 million visitors. Based on the latest average on-island expenditures, the economic impact for fiscal year 2019 was an estimated $946.5 million, representing a 52.3 percent increase in on-island visitor spend over the previous year.
The challenge for GVB is to keep the momentum in the years ahead.
2019 once again highlighted Guam’s love-hate relationship with the military, which itself is a boon-and-bane paradox for the island. While seen as an economic salvation, the military continues to face antagonism from local activists for its purported threat to Guam’s ecological shape.
But despite the local activists’ call for a moratorium on the construction of the live-fire training complex, the military buildup on Guam is in the bag. While amplifying its Indo-Pacific strategy, the Department of Defense hastens to shore up the “the tip of the spear.” The relocation of 5,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa will begin “in the first half of the 2020s,” making it the life-changing period for Guam.
On health care, no change can be said about the Guam Memorial Hospital. It remains the staple headlines, with the same old perennial problems that the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration promised to fix during their campaign. It remains to be a playground for the politically-connected.
The enactment of recreational marijuana made 2019 a landmark year for Guam. The Cannabis Control Board has until April 2020 to finalize a set of rules and regulations to enforce the law. Those regulations will include rules involving the issuance of licenses to operate cannabis retail and cultivation facilities, plus labeling and packaging requirements, advertising restrictions and a seed-to-sale tracking system. But given the government of Guam’s failure to implement the medical marijuana program that was ratified by voters in 2014, marijuana advocates will just have to hold their breath.
The federal receivership on Guam’s solid waste system has been completely lifted and the permanent injunction on Guam Behavioral Health and Welfare has been terminated. These would constitute “good news” if the local government could prove it could independently manage these services with competence.
As for Guam’s self-determination effort, the government has demonstrated nothing but lack of determination. The administration, in a shameful display of slackness, missed the 10-day deadline to file a notice of appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Over all, the state of government affairs remains what it has always been. The Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration has continued the legacies of the administrations before them.
The government— as bloated as it has always been — continues to be the ATM for political supporters. Political patronage never dies.
Officials embark on globetrotting (frequently visiting Washington D.C. in droves), passing the tabs on to the taxpayers. Meanwhile, the governor said 5 percent business privilege tax—which is of course passed on to ordinary consumers — will remain “forever” unless new revenue source identified.
None of the several recommendations prepared by the transition committee has seen the light. Most likely, the transition report will ever be pulled out of the dustbin. 2019 has been a year of disappointment but 2020 is another year and the Leon-Guerrero-Tenorio administration has the rest of their term in Adelup prove the skeptics wrong.
The above article was originally published in the December 2019 print edition of the Pacific Island Times.