BnB tax and regulations bill is ridiculous, will be another nail to CNMI’s economic coffin

By Mabel Doge Luhan 

Congratulations on your investigative reporting, Marianas Variety! You got an awesome scoop in your January 2nd issue. You caught Representative Julie Ogo introducing a completely wack bill (23-93) that can’t possibly be implemented or enforced and will scare away visitors, newcomers, and businesses. You caught a legislator red-handed trying to pull a fast one! Good work!

Which Variety reporter did the investigative work? Wait, this was a press release? The good legislator actually voluntarily sent out an announcement of having introduced this bill? Is she possibly related to the guy who sent the cops photos of himself smoking meth in jail? 

Ok, fine. Ms. Ogo obviously is trying to please some constituents, or some bigger hotel owners. But even Zaldy Dandan is right sometimes: legislators should be leaders and decision makers, not their constituents’ errand-runners. Someone came to Ms. Ogo and said they don’t like the B&Bs for whatever reason, and maybe (though I have no way of knowing!) offered her something in return for introducing a bill. Fine. But then Ms. Ogo’s job is — shockingly — to evaluate that proposal and think and research about whether it’s a good idea that would help the people of the CNMI. Not introduce it just because someone asked (or paid) her to do so.

The bill requires that any company providing accommodation booking or payment services for the CNMI has to apply, pay a bri— application fee, and be certified by CNMI Finance. Is she out of her mind? She thinks AirBnb, Expedia, Booking Holdings, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Stripe, Venmo, and PayPal are going to line up on the second floor of CNMI Finance to bri— request certification? 

And that all these companies are just going to hand over their customer lists to CNMI Finance? Unbeknownst to Ms. Ogo, those companies, unlike most of the CNMI’s companies, actually care for their customers, and want to cultivate their trust. 

And then you’re going to tax any accommodation where someone stays for under a year? How does that work? That has to include monthly apartment rentals, doesn’t it? You realize, some well-connected people rent apartments or houses also, don’t you? That should be enough dissuasion. 

Of course, if the law is actually passed, one of two things will happen. There’s a 99.9% chance nobody at those booking or payment companies will ever hear about the law or care about it. There’s a 0.1% chance that if harassed enough about it by the CNMI government, they’ll simply shut off services for the CNMI — depriving all of us in the CNMI of their services. Including the hotel owners who likely requested this law.

But that’s not all that will happen. If word of this proposal gets out, it will be another nail in our economic coffin. It will be another cautionary tale about why the CNMI is a tinpot dictatorship and nobody should put their money or life here, nor even come here temporarily. The proposal sounds like something passed by an angry dictator in Turkmenistan or Myanmar. Who needs Saipan Sucks when we have press releases like this?

If Ms. Ogo is actually proposing this bill, and boasting about it, that could mean one of two things. Either she is completely cynical and will introduce anything, even if she knows full well it’s at best meaningless and at worst destructive to our economy. Or she completely lacks even the most basic knowledge about how the world works, and seriously thinks Airbnb, PayPal, and other companies are going to kowtow to CNMI Finance, take CNMI legislators out to dinner, and hand over their customer lists so those people could be shaken down too.

But it’s open for public comment, you say? The same folks who have a lot of free time and refuse to take their Seroquel will show up to proffer their expert advice about vaccinations, purebloods, Jews, the Deep State, and USA Americans. How about, instead of “inviting public comment,” which requires zero effort, Ms. Ogo either puts in the research herself, or pays an actual expert on the issue to analyze it for her? And if Ms. Ogo is unable to research and deliberate the issue herself, then why is she collecting a salary?

This only means that for Ms. Ogo and others like her, the fiscal crisis hasn’t gotten real. It’s still playtime. She doesn’t feel any risk to her own income from the fiscal crisis. She can still introduce useless, or actually harmful, legislation, and not suffer from it. Nassim Taleb (an Arab, but one of the good ones!) would say Ms. Ogo doesn’t have “skin in the game.”

What will it take for our legislators to get real? Normally, it would be at election time, but if most of the electorate consists of CNMI government employees and indirect CNMI government beneficiaries, where are the electoral incentives?

The ship is sinking but nobody’s listening to the alarms.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


  • Guakan Tinian

      01/06/2024 at 3:29 PM

    You obviously didn’t read the bill throughly. What does booking through a third party having business with the operator have to do with your credit and bank card? This is an attempt to keep operators honest and report their revenue accurately! I failed to see your offer of solution on top of your worthless criticisms!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *