The government can help the economy in two ways: Leverage Chamorro Land Trust, and get out of the way of business

By Jesse Lujan

The government’s role in bettering the economy is to create and provide an environment that attracts investors and investment and fosters entrepreneurship. The government should reduce red tape and eliminate regulations that stymie growth and add unnecessary burdens that drain business resources. This type of environment, in turn, creates work opportunities and an abundance of well-paying jobs. 

Currently, affordable housing is a major challenge facing our island. In both the rental market and for first-time home buyers looking for an affordable option, the renter and potential buyer are facing few good choices and continued rising prices. Prices are often beyond what makes sense or is feasible for individual or family budgets. In this scenario, the government has a very direct and tangible role to play. The government should immediately make it easier for single-family homes to be built and streamline the process for individuals and families building homes, making it more attractive and easier for the smaller construction companies to build more homes. The current home-building permitting process is cumbersome, time-consuming and therefore expensive. There has been a lot of talk of improving the procedures, but so far, all it has been is talk. 

The government can also ensure the CHamoru Land Trust and other similar programs are making the building of homes easier and attainable. Supplying basic infrastructure and allowing leases that banks will provide more traditional financing are just two ways the Government of Guam could unleash a wave of affordable and viable homeownership for thousands of our people. We need to look no further than Singapore for viable model government-sponsored programs for our island to mimic, adapt, and make our own to spur new and affordable home ownership. The private sector needs government action in the housing market if lower and middle class families are to be served properly. 

As it currently stands, our tourism economy continues to struggle to return to pre-pandemic levels and the government must proactively assist the industry by ensuring our parks are well maintained and our public bathrooms are world-class, not an embarrassment that makes us all cringe. So Parks & Recreation and the management of maintenance contracts should be made a priority and run with the highest standards. Tourism will rebound. We just need to support the businesses that have survived. In this scenario, the government and the private sector are partners where the Government of Guam is helping support the private resources, businesses, and investments that drive the tourism industry. 

Our construction industry is booming and will be for the foreseeable future, so we need to train and support our local population and partner with the military and federal government to ensure most of the benefits accrue to the long-term residents of our island. The support resources needed to service and maintain the new and expanded military presence is a transformative opportunity. If the local government acts to provide training opportunities in IT, mobile technology, and computer programming, generations to come can find and keep secure and very well-paying jobs as well as help drive and develop a new industry on Guam. We are vital to the military because of our strategic location. Our location is also vital as a fiber and potentially tech-vibrant hub as part of America in Asia. As federal and military spending and investment drive construction and related financial opportunities, it is the government’s role to think of the long-term opportunities to benefit future generations and make Guam a magnet for opportunities. 

The current high prices and an economy offering wages not competitive enough or adequate enough to allow residents to find and keep a decent home are forcing many to leave and find opportunities in the mainland. This doesn’t have to be the case for long. The government can do more. 

We should also continue to provide direct financial support to businesses that will once again produce robust tax revenue for the government coffers when the tourists return to pre-pandemic levels as well as provide good-paying jobs. The government must also make public and tourist safety a priority so our island is seen and experienced as a safe and family-friendly destination. The government’s role in public safety is clear and almost all agree it is a necessity and priority, but we rarely provide the resources necessary to make it a reality. 

If the government reduces waste and lowers taxes: lower prices almost always follow. A more efficient government and a government that doesn’t burden residents or businesses with unreasonable regulations and a high tax rate create an environment where businesses can thrive and pass savings on to consumers instead of feeding a government that doesn’t wisely spend the population’s tax dollars. 

If we can get the Government of Guam out of the way when it is an impediment to the local business community but be responsive enough to engage directly when it needs to address the community’s needs, we have found the right balance. The government can be a force for good, helping create a better business and investment environment and directly supporting the people when there is no private sector solution. It isn’t easy, but the government can help support a thriving economy and contribute to a low inflation environment. Our leaders need to be grounded and in touch with the day-to-day challenges the average resident faces. If the local government can put the needs of the citizens ahead of pure politics, the government can have a positive impact on all of our economic lives.

Jesse Lujan is a member of the Guam Legislature, and a resident of Tamuning. He responded to Kandit’s questions: Is it the government’s job to get people work opportunity and to lower prices? What role does the government play in bettering the economy?

Leave a Reply

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