Republican senatorial candidates Frank F. Blas, Jr. and Vincent A.V. Borja have unveiled a proposal to address Guam’s economic downturn resulting from what they say is the current COVID-19 pandemic response.
Blas, a former senator, cited University of Guam Economics Professor Roseanne Jones — who calculated that Guam’s economy will not begin to recover until 2022 — and BankPacific President Phil Flores who characterized the island’s economy as being “shattered” with recovery not occuring until 2023.
“Whether or not the recovery begins in 2022 or 2023, the livelihood of thousands of residents is dependent on recovery efforts now,” Blas said.
Borja, who is an election newcomer, said: “There is frustration in the community in the lack of planning, much less an open discussion, by government leaders with our community on what needs to be done or what can be done to economically recover from this COVID-19 crisis.”
Because of this, Borja said businesses have been either forced to close their doors or restrict their operations and eemployees were either allowed to continue to work with reduced hours or furloughed. Ultimately, he said, many businesses servicing the island community could not afford to not operate and were left with no choice but to shut their doors for good.
“When this happens, an employee who was hoping one day to return to work no longer has a job he could go back to. Our island can no longer wait for its current government leaders to meaningfully address our shattered economy, hence the creation of Rx5: Guam’s Prescription for Economic Recovery,” Borja said.
According to the two senators, Rx5 is a five-pronged coordinated approach to mitigate the negative impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on Guam’s industries and businesses, and to implement actions to fix and strengthen the economy.
The elements of Rx5 are Rethink, Retool, Remake, Rebuild, and Rebound. While these elements complement each other, the plan was designed to be flexible and dynamic so that the achievement of one element is not reliant on the success of another.
According to Blas, each element of the plan will focus on a specific concern in order to recover.
“Let’s Rethink how we do business in Guam. Let’s Retool our current and displaced workers to provide them diversity and opportunity. Let’s Remake an economy that is more resilient and prepared for any challenge. Let’s Rebuild our economy with the recognition that we are all in this together, and together is the way our community survives. Let’s REBOUND from this calamity the way we’ve rebounded from disasters before,” Blas said.
He added: “It’s very concerning when economic experts forecast that our economy will not get better for a couple more years. What compounds the concern is that there appears to be no interest, urgency, or another idea to address our current economic condition and what it will be in the future,” Blas said.