No frivolous trips as belts tightened

By Moneth Deposa SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 2, 2010) – The new administration at the Saipan Mayor’s Office will enforce good fiscal management by closely monitoring the mayor’s operational expenditures and cutting unnecessary travels that won’t benefit the island, according to the office’s spokesman.

Victor Pangelinan, Saipan Mayor Donald Flores’ public information officer, told Saipan Tribune yesterday that, except for the ongoing cultural exchange programs with Japanese and Korean students, Pangelinan said no other off-island travels will be considered, if deemed not essential to the function of the municipality.

“All travels [off-island] will be cut to a minimum. If these trips will not bring something good in return for the island, then we will have to reconsider our participation,” Pangelinan said.

Since being inaugurated last month, Flores will make his first off-island trip next week-to Japan-for the traditional Sanpoen cultural exchange program.

Besides this, nothing has been finalized or scheduled yet, he said.

“After the Sanpoen, we’re not planning on anything because we will cut down on everything,” he said.

Pangelinan pointed out that the relationship built between the CNMI and Japan through cultural exchange programs indirectly impacts the island’s economy.

“We have to remember that these students [from Japan] are our future tourists. For over 20 years, we continue to see their important contribution to our tourism and economy,” he said.

This fiscal year, the Fitial administration has proposed the enforcement of austerity holidays and freeze hiring on all departments and agencies as a result of declining government revenues and resources.

Pangelinan said the municipality will adhere to the administration’s call for austerity measures. He believes the new mayor will not seek any exemption if such legislation is enacted.

“I am sure the mayor would go along with what the administration will implement. We will not try to get away with it, because we understand the situation of the economy,” he said.

The Saipan municipality has 42 total personnel to date, according to Pangelinan, including himself.

From an 80-hour work week schedule, the municipality may cut down their hours if so ordered across all agencies, he said.

“Of course nobody wants to see this happen but we have to understand that we have to do what is necessary for the government to continue to function,” he said.