It's sad to hear that Carmen Safeway is closing, but I really wasn't going to write about it. Like Blockbuster and other businesses that have been shutting down it's the inevitable result of a shrinking economy. Besides, it's my fault.
It's a systemic problem, but we look at each failed business like the blind men describing an elephant*.
During the garment bubble** all foreign "investors" were welcomed with open arms. A karaoke bar or strip mall was equivalent to a water park.
Back up a moment here. What distinguishes the United States from developing countries? I'd argue that it's a strong middle class (We'll ignore the last eight years; it's my argument).
The CNMI has never asked the basic question: Development for who? Cheap labor has trumped local labor. Where are the mechanics, the hairdressers, the Joe Plumbers? They're on Guam, in the mainland or stuck in the government.
The few citizens or residents who own businesses are swamped by shoestring startups. I don't blame the Chinese, the Koreans, the Filipinos or any other group that comes here. They don't make the rules and the government has never tried to make the local workforce the driver of the economy.
Ah, but times are hard. Local workers who can't find a job or start a business are looking at the "outsiders" and asking 'what about me?' There will always be demagogues to fan those flames. It's noteworthy that the violent in-your-face crimes are aimed at foreign nationals.
The garment bubble has popped. We're left with tourism and transfer payments from the federal government. Most of the small foreign businesses came here in good faith. Ideally, they never would have come, but I'd support grandfathering them when stricter federal investment rules come in next year. That's no excuse to continue down a road that's so obviously a deadend. As Zaldy Dandan points out in Friday's Marianas Variety, the system is dysfunctional. It's too bad local leaders don't know how to fix it.
Oh, Carmen Safeway is (was) one of my favorite stores: an excellent bakery, good quality meat and vegetables and a lot of Japanese products. It's my fault they closed because I've been going to bakeries/stores that are closer or cheaper with merchandise that is 'almost as good'.
* You must have heard the story, but for anyone who missed it: One man fondled the trunk and announced that an elephant was like a snake. Another stroked a leg and said no, it's more like a tree trunk. And so on...
** Speculating while building an economy around an obscure customs footnote (Headnote 3(a)) fits my definition of a bubble