Guam buildup shifts from elation to worries-Laney
Monday, March 31, 2008
By Mark Rabago, Assistant Editor
Guam is singing a different tune two years after the announcement that 8,000 U.S. Marines and about 9,000 of their dependents will relocate to the U.S. territory from Okinawa.
First Hawaiian Back economics consultant Dr. Leroy Laney said that the CNMI neighbor's initial celebratory feeling about the impending $15-billion military buildup in Guam has died down since the April 2006 announcement. In its place are questions ranging from “who would foot the bill” to “would it all be completed on time.”
“The biggest change I've noticed is when I was here in August 2006, the military buildup has just been previously announced in April, there was a great sense of elation and euphoria. [people saying] 'God we're getting all this money and everything is going to be great and everybody that lives and works and makes a living is going to get their slice of it.
“Coming back here now in early 2008, the biggest change I've noticed is that the rhetoric and the discussion has changed more toward, 'How much is this going to cost and who's going to pay for it?' and 'Can we get it done in the timeframe that the military has set out?'” said Laney, who served as guest speaker of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting held last Friday at Saipan Grand Hotel.
Laney, who is also a professor of Economic and Finance at the Hawaii Pacific University, added that much of the apprehension in the military buildup revolves around the 2010-2014 timeframe expected for the military buildup to be completed.
He said the Joint Guam Planning Office has published a timeline but what he is concerned about is that the projects are somewhat timed abruptly to start in 2010 and also end abruptly in 2014.
“It seems to me that's somewhat optimistic. Knowing how these things go it’s not likely that it's going to have that trajectory. First of all, its not that far off; 2010 is just around the corner, as a matter of fact, and people that I talked to in the construction industry over there are kind of the opinion that, 'well if we're really going to get started in 2010 then this, this, and this should've been happening right now.' It's not, so it's not going to happen that quickly.”
The other thing that worries Laney is that the window from 2010 to 2014 is a rather brief one to cram all of that planned military construction in Guam.
He, however, admits that the military buildup is a boon to the U.S. territory.
“Regardless of what trajectory it is, if it takes in a longer timeframe, it's going to be a big boost to the Guam economy and I would think the CNMI economy would be looking at ways that you can get some of that also.”
And the benefits of the Guam military buildup to the Commonwealth does not stop there.
“If job growth here is not that great, the possibility of jobs over there might be greater. I heard some talk about using Saipan as a staging area for some of the construction that is going on,” he said.
Guam and CNMI are also expected to get a bigger boost once the U.S. Navy decides to expand the port in the U.S. territory to allow its mighty aircraft carriers to dock there.
“They're talking about an aircraft carrier visiting the harbor. They're expanding the harbor so an aircraft carrier can get in there. I heard from the lieutenant governor (Mike Cruz) over there that four or five business visits a year from an aircraft carrier is almost like home-porting there. When all the sailors hit the town, it's like a small town pulling up to the dock. That would be a big boost. I would think they would also come over here (CNMI),” said Laney.
Aside from the CNMI and Guam, Laney also talked about the U.S. economy and why he believes it is in recession. He also said Hawaii's economic growth is undoubtedly decelerating but that it continues to be in a better position than the overall U.S. economy.