19 Aug 2013

Economic catastrophe forecast if foreign workers exited from CNMI

7:13 pm on 19 August 2013

The president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce says if the US Department of Labour doesn't agree to an extension for foreign workers to stay in the Northern Marianas, it would result in an economic meltdown.

The CNMI government has asked the US Department of Labour for a five year extension to the immigration transition period, which is due to expire at the end of next year.

Otherwise 15,000 foreign workers plus their dependents would have to leave the territory, which has a population of around 54,000.

The president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce Alex Sablan, told Bridget Tunnicliffe the uncertainty of a decision from the US has had an impact on foreign investment.

ALEX SABLAN: We do not have a sufficient local populace base to meet the demands of our current economy. There are many reports which say we will not have one for more than sixty years. So there's definitely going to be a need for some semblance of a foreign worker base.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: DO you htink that the CNMI government has formed a clear and unified position on this issue?

ALEX SABLAN: Yes in fact we met with the Governor yesterday and the administration has a clear view of what the implications are, what the conditions are on the ground. There are unemployed worker base and we are working diligently with the administration and leaders of the commonwealth to formulate effective workforce development programms and we are eagerly trying to pursue certification and technical assistance degrees all with respect to what is going on in our economy and for vocations that need to be filled by a local workforce base.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Right now, is it a matter of waiting on the US decision whether they will extend this period?

ALEX SABLAN: We're waiting on the Department of Labor to complete its assessments. They are asking questions. We believe we have a good response to justufy the extension for another five years. But what we really need Congress to accept is that unless there is a miraculous migration of US mainlanders to the Commonwealth in the next few years we will never have a sufficient local US citizen workforce base in the Commonwealth that is sufficient to meet our economic needs., we will always require the need for foreign workers.

The president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce Alex Sablan.