State workers to take less pay to save country

SAIPAN, December 29, 2008 (AFP) – The Northern Mariana Islands, faced with an escalating economic crisis, needs a four-day working week to cut costs, Governor Benigno Fitial said Monday. Fitial, who rejected a proposed budget bill that contained pay increases for department heads, said cost-cutting measures were “critical.”

The department of finance said the Northern Marianas government, a US-administered Pacific island territory, has only 148 million dollars to spend in the 2009 fiscal year, down 8.6 million dollars on the current budget.

Fitial said the funds could be spread further by the introduction of unpaid holidays, reduced remittances to the national retirement fund and “austerity Fridays”, with public servants working a Monday-to-Thursday week.

“These cost-cutting measures are critical to meet our constitutional requirement of a balanced budget and to continue delivering services to the people of the commonwealth,” he said in his veto message to the legislature.

The Northern Marianas enacted a shortened working week during the 2007 fiscal year, when public offices were closed every other Friday.

The island territory, with a population of around 80,000,