Thursday, June 5, 2008

Saipan's Flirts with Third World Status

In his book, and The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, economist Jeffrey Sachs points out,

When the preconditions of basic infrastructure (roads, power, and ports) and human capital (health and education) are in place, markets are powerful engines of development. Without those preconditions, markets can cruelly bypass large parts of the world, leaving them impoverished and suffering without respite.

Let’s take a closer look at this dense statement, that gives a very simple formula for economic success of a people. Development requires the combination of human capital (which consists of two parts – health and education) and basic infrastructure (which consists of three parts – roads, ports and power). Here on Saipan we lack reliable power, and therefore, we simply lack one of the key elements required for development. The lack of power is not just an inconvenience. It changes our status as a developed jurisdiction

Yesterday, at our home we had over five hours of unannounced power outages spread throughout the day. One came during mealtime, another just as we were getting children to bed. We were unable to cook, and our children cried as they tried to fall asleep in the sweltering heat. This is not a scene that you expect in a developed place, especially when it happens daily, as it is now. Power is part of basic infrastructure, and without it, there is limited opportunity for our markets to develop. I hate to say it, but our protracted power problems now bring us into the company of most third world countries. Our power situation puts us in a particular category of underdeveloped nations, and market opportunities cruelly bypass us.


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I thought we were blaming everything on SARS and Bird Flu?

Marianas Pride said...

That was the previous administration Angelo. This administration blames the U.S., David Cohen, the rising cost of oil, world inflation, and the threat of the huge 50 cent increase of the minimum wage. ;)

David, I feel your pain. For the past two weeks, aside from the two or three daytime power outages, CUC shuts off our power from either 8pm to 10pm or 9pm to 11pm. Daisy and I take turns in fanning our children as they sweat profusely, due mainly to the fact that there isn't much of a breeze where we live.

As far as my business is concerned, I don't open in the morning at all, because the power is generally off until the afternoon. I can't afford a generator or the fuel required to run the generator. We have been forced to reduce our prices because we are a non-essential one HAS to take their pictures. Just like no one HAS to go out to restaurants. Or bars. Or coffee shops. Or bakery shops. etc. etc.

David, the bottom line? I could live with this situation if it meant that a solution was right around the corner. But the fact is, there is no solution in sight. And I will tell you and the world that if this administration thinks that running CUC to the ground and then sole sourcing it to a particular company out of Taiwan or Philippines is going to happen, they better wake up.

There is a group of us who are currently working to force this administration to action. The details will be forthcoming.

Thanks for a beautiful post on the sad reality we live in. On a side note, when I was in Seattle and got together with a bunch of friends from here I grew up with, all they talked about was their careers, families, travel, and exciting things they are doing. Not once did they mention about power failures, a corrupt government, horrible water, etc. Kind of puts things into perspective.

Take care and have a great weekend!


Sean said...

David, you nailed it. I've been thinking the same thing for awhile now.

What boggles my mind is how competely unaware our leaders seem to be of how absolutely vital this issue is. I understand there are a lot of complaints about the cost of electricity but that's not even as important as this. Power supply MUST be consistent and stable. Period. It should be our governments number one priority and I just sense that's it's not. Which is just sad, because Saipan is such a beautiful place. It doesn't deserve this.