The Mariana Islands are still in what is called Typhoon Season in the region. Most recently Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands hunkered down and are still dealing with the after-effects of Typhoon Hagibis, which passed over the islands on Oct. 7 and 8.
Businesses and administrations in the region acted with varying degrees of urgency and nervousness, based on their missions as Hagibis drew nearer.
We are all mindful of the human suffering that can occur when strong typhoons hit. But storms also leave their marks on our economy, particularly the tourism sector.
Recently our economies have borne the brunt of these other economic storms that linger over our islands.
Our labor markets have seen huge challenges – those of new regulations applicable to contract workers in the Northern Mariana Islands – and denials of Guam’s H-2B workers in general and now those from the Philippines in particular due to a separate federal government ruling actually aimed at over-stayers in the U.S. mainland.
A court case on denial of H-2B petitions for Guam is still inching along in federal court with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service defending itself in federal court against systematic denials.
In recent months, the U.S. military has had a hand in helping the plaintiffs by seeing petitions for work on bases and certain work deemed relative to the military buildup receive approval.
But that is not enough for a Guam buildup that federal officials promised repeatedly would be good for everybody on Guam. Residents and businesses who cannot afford the rising cost of construction certainly don’t see that economic storm passing anytime soon.
The effects of the minimum wage, the increased fuel tax, no relief from the 25% increase in Business Privilege tax to 5% and more are pummeling the business community in Guam. mbj