CNMI asks for Trump’s help as Covid-19 flattens economy

12:27 pm on 4 March 2020

The Northern Marianas government has asked the US president for help with an economy reeling from the impacts of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

US president Donald Trump attends a bilateral meeting during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 21, 2020.

Photo: AFP

With its main tourism markets cut off due to the ongoing outbreak, the US territory has reached out with a letter to Donald Trump.

In the letter, Governor Ralph Torres said the near-complete reduction in the number of flights from South Korea, following the loss of the Chinese tourism market, would assuredly result in the "unequivocal and complete collapse of the foundations of our private sector on the islands".

With the collapse of the drivers of private industry, government revenue and services would soon struggle to remain operational, he said.

The governor also appealed to the president to designate a member of his staff to allow the CNMI to communicate directly with the White House as the government tries to resolve the situation.

Earlier, the Marianas Visitors Authority projected zero tourist arrivals from China for the fiscal year due to a number of flight suspensions and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus.

As a result the local economy was forecast to absorb an estimated loss of more than $US48 million by October.

Asian tourists on a CNMI beach

Tourists on a CNMI beach (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Mark Rabago

Torres asks banks to defer loan payments

Meanwhile, banks in the Northern Marianas are being asked to consider providing a three-month grace period for loans, mortgages and other monetary obligations due to the impact of the virus.

The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a downturn in the local economy and prompted the government to implement austerity measures, including a 64-hour bi-weekly work schedule.

In his letter to the banks, the governor said the deferments would provide residents with peace of mind during the challenging economic times.

Mr Torres added the banks would contribute significantly to the rebuilding of the local economy while avoiding the disruption of foreclosures and collection actions.

The Northern Marianas Housing Corporation has already announced a blanket deferment assistance of all of its loans for a period of three months, ending on 31 May.

During this time, interest shall not accrue, but beginning 1 June, all loans will be reinstated to their regular monthly payments and an additional three months will be added on to the loan maturity.

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