Groups to GovGuam: Cut costs, diversify economy

PLEASURE ISLAND: Little to no pedestrian traffic is seen in the Pleasure Island area of Tumon, the epicenter of Guam tourism, on July 10. Guam's tourism industry has been reeling since COVID-19 travel restrictions took effect in March, and business leaders are urging the government to look at other industries to sustain the economy. Post file photo

Guam's largest business organization on Monday called on the government to look at industries outside of tourism to grow the economy, with the COVID-19 pandemic halting the visitor industry and bringing revenues down by $47 million, or 8.5%, in eight months.

The revenue shortage is "concerning," according to the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

The Republican Party of Guam, meanwhile, called on GovGuam to prioritize reducing the cost of running the government and to "do so immediately."

The CNMI and Hawaii, which also heavily rely on tourism, have reduced current fiscal year budgets and announced plans for government furloughs in light of reduced revenue.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, a Democrat, has said her administration has been prudent with resources, so no furloughs or other cost-cutting measures have been announced.

Her budget director, Lester Carlson, said much of the revenue shortfall could be attributed to the movement of the tax filing date to July 15, from April 15.

Republicans: 'Do the responsible thing'

"While it is clear that the executive branch absolutely refuses to reduce costs, the legislative branch needs to do the responsible thing and identify cost-cutting measures," the Republicans said in a statement. "Even at the heart of the pandemic, knowing that government collections would be bleak, Adelup continues to hire, and other than a few Republican senators, the Guam Legislature said absolutely nothing."

The administration is proposing a record $1 billion budget for fiscal 2022. 

The Democrat-led Legislature has been holding agency budget hearings leading to a vote on the 2022 budget.

Potential new industries

As for the Guam Chamber of Commerce's ideas for potential new industries for Guam, here are the ones it believes are attainable:

  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Captive insurance
  • Guam trust law
  • Relocation of high-wealth individuals and business from Asia
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing relocation to U.S. territories
  • Construction, ship repair and labor
  • Safe haven port
  • Satellite launching
  • Silicon Village initiative

The governor, during a prior news briefing, said her administration has started exploring alternative industries and luring businesses from Hong Kong, and beefing up agriculture and aquaculture.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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