Sunday, March 30, 2008

Brain Drain in the NMI

NMI faces brain drain
Sunday, March 30, 2008
By Agnes E. Donato, Reporter

NMI workers may flock to Guam for buildup

If the CNMI economy continues at its sluggish pace, the Commonwealth may very well lose some of its best and brightest workers to neighboring Guam, which economy is expected to benefit from the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines and 9,000 of their dependents from Okinawa.

This according to First Hawaiian Back economic consultant Dr. Leroy Laney, who served as guest speaker during Friday's Saipan Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting at the Saipan Grand Hotel.

Responding to a question posed by Northern Marianas College's Eric Plinske about the negative impact, if any, the Guam military buildup would have in the CNMI, Laney said workers leaving would be biggest problem.

“If there is no or very little job creation here and it all goes over there [Guam]-that's where all the job creation is, depending on how long it lasts,” he said.

In an interview with the Saipan Tribunei after his presentation, the professor of Economic and Finance at the Hawaii Pacific University reiterated that line of thought.

“Maybe Guam is where people will go for jobs because there will be a lot of jobs over there. There will be a brain drain and a body drain,” he said.

“I think there's more to do in Guam to employ people in the CNMI and immigrant workers in the Philippines and other countries. One of their big problems is not having enough labor and since the CNMI is right next door, it would seem to me that it's only logical that would be a possible source of it.”

Laney, however, said that the migration of CNMI workers to the northernmost part of the Mariana chain would likely be temporary. “The possibility is they would all come back after it's over; the [military buildup] won't last forever.”

He added, “It's sort of like a hardening of the infrastructure and all this military housing, but it will not create permanent jobs. So it depends on how long it will be but certainly people do go where job opportunities are and jobs is one way to measure an economy.”

Laney, who used to work under former Federal Reserve chair Allan Greenspan, also said that the military's timeframe for the Guam military buildup (2010-2014) seems a little optimistic.

“Looks like it might be unrealistic and it’s going to be hard to meet that timeframe but it is going to be positive for the Guam economy. When you talk about an order of magnitude like this it’s really very hard to put any kind of precise estimate on real gross island product rates of growth,” he said.

Laney added that he talked with people in the construction industry in Guam and they said if 2010 is the target date for the start of the military buildup in Guam, then the groundwork plan should have already been laid out by now.

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