Monday, December 07, 2009

Without facilities, Guam can’t absorb growth

Without facilities, Guam can’t absorb growth

Monday, 07 December 2009 03:54
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

IT IS uncertain if Guam has the capacity to fully absorb and benefit from the sudden injection of large expenditures into its economy during the “boom” period when peak construction overlaps with military arrivals, according to the draft environmental impact statement.

The impact report noted that, theoretically, large expenditures in this period would circulate throughout the economy and create opportunities for spin-off growth in jobs and population.

However, the report noted that if the economy and social infrastructure cannot expand rapidly enough to provide the labor, housing, and other requirements for these jobs to be realized, then much of these expenditures could leak out of Guam’s economy and the potential growth would not all occur before the construction period ends.

Economic models were used to estimate the extent of indirect economic impacts and these models assume it would be easy for business to finance new operations and to find additional workers rapidly.

However, fast-growing economies in general – and a small U.S. territorial islands far from the mainland – can face many challenges in taking advantage of new economic opportunities, the report said.

Because of the size and remoteness of Guam, the available supply of resident workers is limited, and direct jobs from the proposed action would take up much of this labor. The economy of the neighboring CNMI is depressed so some workers may move to Guam. Although they are close, there are limited numbers of skilled workers from the freely associated states.

The U.S. Congress has temporarily lifted the normal limits on H-2B work visas-temporary work permits for foreign labor-for Guam during the construction period. However, foreign workers would not be admitted in large numbers forever, and it would be impractical for many types of employers, especially small businesses, to meet the legal requirements for importing workers and also provide them with housing and health benefits, stated the report

Although U.S. military personnel and foreign workers entering on H-2B work visas would have housing built for them as required by law, other workers moving to Guam to take spin-off jobs would likely rely on housing provided by Guam’s private market. Whether the local market can or would provide such housing in sufficient supply and at affordable prices is uncertain, said the report.

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