DAN DAN Saipan — The Northern Marianas Islands continue to have a steady number of businesses over the past six years despite the economic downturn in the tourism and garment sectors government data showed.

According to figures obtained from the Business License Office of the NMI Division of Revenue and Taxation total new and renewed business licenses issued from 2000 to October 2006 were within the 4 200 to 4 500 range.

"There were turn overs " Pamela J. Halstead the business license officer who processes license applications and renewals said. "One closes another opens " she said.

Halstead said the months of November to February comprise the peak period during which most licenses expire and are renewed.

According to the business license office data there was a total of 4 248 new and renewed business licenses in 2000; 4 169 in 2001; 4 204 in 2002; 4 453 in 2003; 4 440 in 2004; and 4 547 in 2005. As of October 2006 which is the latest available data there were 3 610 new and renewed business licenses issued.

Halstead said figures for November and December could push the 2006 overall data to to 2005 levels.

According to the business license office there were 908 new business licenses issued in 2000. This slid to 796 in 2001 then climbed to 1 035 in 2002. In 2003 the figure went down to 921 then climbed again to 1 094 in 2004 and 1 096 in 2005. As of October 2006 there were 905 new business licenses issued.

Renewed business licenses for 2000 totaled 3 340. The figure went steadily along this range for the following years with 3 373 renewed business licenses issued in 2001; 3 169 in 2002; 3 532 in 2003; 3 346 in 2004 and 3 451 in 2005. As of October 2006 there were 2 705 renewed business licenses issued.

The NMI continues to experience an economic downturn that started in the late 1990s starting with the 1997 Asian economic crisis into the new millennium with the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.; the SARS outbreak in 2003; last year’s suspension of Japan Airlines’ Saipan route and the pull out of several garment factories brought about by the lifting of quota restrictions on the importation of garment products to the U.S.MBJ