Dear Edith, make us business friendly, not a joke to the world

By Mabel Doge Luhan

Edith DeLeon Guerrero has made sure the CNMI is no laggard on the INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY.  (See ‘Web-based digital economy will generate add’l revenue for NMI,’ February 9th Saipan Tribune.) We’ve got an internet to conquer, Edith says! Whether we like it or not, she has dragged us kicking and screaming into the 1990s!

And she did it all with a NONBINDING RESOLUTION “to encourage the public and private sectors to support the acquisition and retention of resident individuals and businesses participating in an internet-based digital economy.”

She’s only thirty years behind the times, but the idea isn’t a bad one! Except like many CNMI politicians, Edith doesn’t really know the big world outside — and that the CNMI is competing for those online workers and businesses with pretty much every other jurisdiction in the world.

There’s this bit of legal advice from Edith:

“DeLeon Guerrero said remote workers from countries under the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver program can establish businesses in CNMI and source income inside the Commonwealth while they are visiting and working within the Commonwealth.”

Wait, working within the Commonwealth? On a Visa Waiver Program entry? Nice advice, Edith. Almost as good as your laughably wrong lectures on federal immigration law back in your DOL days. Law school, or at least college, might’ve helped on that!

And yes, working for a business you own is still working. Not that anyone in the CNMI follows that law, but it’s the law, and maybe the Senate President shouldn’t hand out legal advice she’s not sure of.

“U.S.-based technology companies, from startup to corporate giant, can relocate all or part of their business operations to CNMI”

This is quite a laugher. She is speaking as if all these companies have absolutely nowhere to go, and she is offering them an option they’ll surely jump at. Every country, state, province, town, and city in the world is trying to woo these people and businesses. They have no shortage of options. And they will weigh our offer against all the other offers out there.

And here’s an announcement from Edith’s former gig, reminding businesses in the CNMI of the quarterly and yearly “Department of Labor” paperwork they’ll need to submit.

Nowhere else in the US are there paperwork requirements like this — yan sa hafa?! What is the good of this? Sure, the original purpose of these regulations was making sure that the CNMI Government is the only employer in the CNMI, but why do we still have that around when that’s no longer a goal?

Do you think making a vegetable market pay their security guard twenty dollars to write up a “workforce plan” for them every year will change anything? Meanwhile, this kind of garbage “regulation” truly scares away businesses from here.

Maybe in response to Edith’s NONBINDING RESOLUTION, I should make an ANNOUNCEMENT:

New businesses considering coming to the CNMI, you’ll have to have all your hiring and firing approved by the Department of Labor. And if you’re planning on doing any hiring, prepare to be “strongly encouraged” to hire the politician’s relatives who happen to be coming over for an interview. (Don’t worry! They won’t actually show up for work! They just need the title and salary.)

Hey new businesses: Do you know that you need to go through a zoning process, even if your business is only online, and that it can take up to a year of repeat visits to the Zoning Office and getting repeat requests from zoning officers for “mamasan you borrow me twenty dollar?” just to get ok’d to run that online business? Do you know you’ll have to provide labeled detailed photos of the inside of your office?

Do you know that you need to go to DPW, Workers’ Compensation, Finance, and a whole slew of other offices, all of which are in different, unmarked buildings, and all of which close at random when too many of their employees are “out sick” for a few days after payday?

Do you know that non-NMD US citizens are still told they need “a local agent” to form a CNMI corporation? And that no matter what the law is, foreign citizens are asked for bribes and made-up requirements to form CNMI corporations, and strongly pitched “a local partner who can help you”?

Oh yes, new businesses, I almost forgot: that corporation-forming thing might take you (meaning, the CNMI government) three to six months at the Department of Commerce. Have patience! It’s only thirty times longer than the three to six days it takes the notoriously slow New York State Department of Corporations.

Then it’s on to the business license office! I hope you’ve prepared a fresh stack of twenties!

By the way, you are not allowed to pay businesses taxes if you haven’t been certified to do so by the business license office. And do you know that you’ll need to file and pay business tax returns EVERY MONTH? That’s not a typo!

But there’s some good news here. There’s absolutely no enforcement of the CNMI tax regulations. So you’d be crazy to actually go through all of the above. Every online entrepreneur in the CNMI just stays under the radar. Or chooses somewhere else to go.


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

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