It would be nice if the economic picture of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the region was prettier after years of hard times.
As Kin Cook and Maria Leon Guerrero of Bank of Guam, David John of ASC Trust and I visited with companies in Guam for the Top Companies List, the pictures executives painted was of stark realism rather than a pleasing renaissance landscape.
The talk was of labor issues, with the lack of H-2 workers for the construction industry still a work in progress, and the cost of materials for the industry soaring. Labor issues concern other market sectors too.
Across the board, the lack of an employee pool is an issue.
Times are tough. The Consumer Price Index for Guam in the second quarter of 2023 (the latest available from the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans) shows an increase of 11% compared to the same quarter last year. Market increases compared to the same period a year ago were electricity, 35.5%; motor fuel, 21% and food 8.1%.
The NMI’s Department of Commerce’s current figures show the rising cost of a 50-pound bag of rice, particularly in Rota. A 50-pound bag of rice is probably not one of the items Rota residents choose to bring back after flying to Guam or Saipan for a shopping trip.
Power outages continue to plague Guam. “Just” 11 days of the 31 days in October required loadshedding, GPA says. Three more months of credits of $100 per business and residential account holder is a small comfort. Tourism recovery in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands is a concern. The NMI government has implemented a reduced work week for government workers and taxes nearing passage into law and aimed to raise funds will result in increased costs being passed to consumers.
Are there any daubs of color on the gray canvas that confronts our islands? Despite the industry’s challenges, military construction is booming in Guam. Guam anticipates some good news on inbound flights for the first quarter and Chinese New Year. Palau is looking forward to increased inbound flights. Many small businesses persist against all odds with new offerings.
Read on for a variety of detailed analyses and more information.