Analysis: Economies in Guam, CNMI improving


HONOLULU — An annual economic forecast for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands says this year is tracking better than 2012 for both economies.

The forecast released by First Hawaiian Bank says Guam is seeing improved tourism, relatively low inflation and a better job market than last year.

The analysis says CNMI will likely see modest growth in its economy despite uncertainty about how U.S. and territorial lawmakers will approach different challenges, including minimum wages and foreign labor.

The analysis says many people in Guam believe recent developments in the territory show a transfer of 5,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa, Japan, will happen despite a six-year delay. But Guam lawmakers have told officials in Washington and Japan that the territory needs upgrades to civilian infrastructure.

Tourism is up 5 percent through the first four months of 2013, suggesting visits will top 2012 even though Guam has had to overcome several challenges.

The report cited a February stabbing incident in which three Japanese tourists were killed and nine others were injured in a popular resort area.

The report also says Guam tourism has had to contend with nuclear threats from North Korea and a stronger U.S. dollar against the Japanese yen. A preliminary report from the study’s author says that as the dollar strengthens to become worth 1 fewer yen, 159 fewer Japanese visitors visit Guam each month.

But Maria Claret M. Ruane, resident development economist at the Pacific Center for Economic Initiatives at the University of Guam, said Japanese visitors tend to plan visits well in advance. That means there could be a one-year lag in any fluctuations.

Ruane prepared the forecasts for the bank.

Strong visitation to the Mariana Islands is expected to help the commonweath’s economy recover and modestly grow. Visitor arrivals grew 17.4 percent in 2012 after dropping 10 percent in 2010. And estimates show visitor arrivals up 7 percent in the first three months this year, the study said.