Marianas Variety Guam Edition – The Local and Regional Newspaper

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Enter the dragon

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SO HOW do you like the new year? Wasn’t 2011 a blast?

This year is supposed to be the year the world ends, according to the misinformed doomsday sayers who don’t understand the cyclical nature of the Mayan calendar.

But if we go by Chinese astrology, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, which symbolizes success, fortune, and power.

Of course, the Chinese also believe that dragon years tend to magnify both success and catastrophe. Thus, the last Year of the Dragon, which occurred in 2000, was characterized by fears about the coming of the new millennium and the Y2K bug, all of which proved unfounded.

But this year being more specifically the Year of the Water Dragon, no major waves are expected since Chinese astrologers believe the Year of the Water Dragon is known for its calm, intelligence, and balance. It is the Year of the Fire Dragon (1917, 1976, and 2036) that typically wreaks the most havoc.

So what is the outlook for us here on Guam?

One can understand the fears about the island’s economy after the U.S. Congress and then the Japanese government decided to cut funding for the relocation of the Okinawa-based Marines to Guam.

But many contractors are saying 2012 won’t be too bad. In fact, 2012 construction work may even equal, if not surpass, 2011 levels since the construction awards that were signed early last year, when the outlook for the buildup was still positive, would start in earnest this year.

Also, there are still ongoing military construction projects that can help carry the construction industry through this year.

In addition, the economic multiplier effect of the millions of dollars pumped into the island’s economy by the tax refunds late last year should carry over at least until the first quarter of this year.

Looking back now, Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo looks very prescient in borrowing from the international bond market at the time frame he did.

Imagine if Guam postponed the bond borrowing until after the funding cut for the buildup – would Guam have gotten the excellent rating we got from the rating agencies? I don’t think so. At least now, we’ve been able to secure millions of dollars to pay off tax refund obligations and pump-prime the economy before our image as a prime investment declined due to the buildup funding cut.

Who knows? The U.S. economy may finally pick up and we may get our buildup funding back. The National Defense Authorization Act, which cut the buildup funding for Guam, is an annual appropriation. If the federal government gets enough financial wiggle room this year or next year, we may still see funding for the Guam buildup restored.

And of course, with the new unpredictable regime in North Korea and the continuing aggressiveness of China, U.S. policymakers may finally wake up to realize the strategic role that Guam’s military bases play in the region and restore the funding for critical military construction projects.

As for tourism, the Japanese economy is starting to slowly get back on its feet, almost one year after the triple disasters that hit the country.

This means we can expect more Japanese tourists, probably still not up to pre-tsunami levels, but definitely more than last year’s dismal numbers. This, coupled with the Russian visa waiver coming into effect starting this month, should provide a much needed boost to our long suffering tourism industry.

Plus, let’s not forget 2012 is an election year. That should provide us with enough drama and spending that could have a positive effect on the economy.

So this year shouldn’t be as gloomy as the pessimists are saying. Here’s to good fortune all throughout the year!

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