🇲🇵 Saipan is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. The legislative and executive branches of Commonwealth government are located in the village of Capitol Hill on the island; the judicial branch is headquartered in the village of Susupe. Since the entire island is organised as a single municipality, most publications designate Saipan as the Commonwealth's capital.
Economy Tourism had traditionally been a vital source of the island's revenue and economic activities. But in the 1980s, garment manufacturing became one of the main economic driving forces in Saipan when the U.S. government agreed that the CNMI would be exempted from certain federal minimum wage and immigration laws. While one result of these changes was an increase in hotels and tourism, the main consequence was that dozens of garment factories opened and clothing manufacturing became the island's chief economic force, employing thousands of foreign contract laborers (mostly young Chinese women) at low wages. The manufacturers could legally label these low cost garments "Made in the U.S.A". and the clothing shipped to the U.S. market was also exempt from U.S. tariffs. By 1998, the Saipan garment industry exported close to $1 billion worth of apparel products to the mainland. The working conditions and treatment experienced by employees in these factories were the subject of controversy and criticism.
As of March 2007, 19 companies manufactured garments on Saipan. In addition to many foreign-owned and run companies, many well-known U.S. brands also operated garment factories in Saipan for much of the last three decades. Brands included Gap (as of 2000 operating six factories there), Levi Strauss, Phillips-Van Heusen, Abercrombie & Fitch, L'Oreal subsidiary Ralph Lauren (Polo), Lord & Taylor, Tommy Hilfiger, and Walmart.
When the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) expired in 2005, thus eliminating quotas on textile exports to the United States, Saipan's garment factories started closing one after the other. From a high of 34 garment factories in the late 1990s, Saipan's last factory closed on January 15, 2009. On November 28, 2009, the federal government took control of immigration to the Northern Mariana Islands.
More recently, casino gaming has come to Saipan with at least five casinos now operating on the island. As of 2016, Imperial Pacific International Holdings, a Chinese company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (but majority owned by billionaire businesswoman Cui Lijie), which develops and operates casinos, hotels, and restaurants in CNMI, was reportedly the largest taxpayer in Saipan. In 2014, Imperial Pacific was granted a 25-year license to build and operate casinos on Saipan with an option to extend the license for another 15 years. The Imperial Pacific Resort, still unfinished as of June 2019, is set to include a luxury hotel, casino, restaurants, retail space, and leisure facilities. The complex was supposed to be completed by August 2018. The existing casinos are already handling over $2 billion monthly in VIP bets, more that the largest casinos in Macau, leading to accusations of money laundering. There has been criticism by local doctors after dead and seriously injured Chinese workers have appeared at the hospital, often illegally working under tourist visas.
Twin Towns - Sister Cities Saipan has links with:🇯🇵 Aizuwakamatsu, Japan 🇹🇼 Hualien City, Taiwan 🇺🇸 Wailuku, USA
Locations Near: Saipan 145.753,15.1888
Antipodal to: Saipan -34.247,-15.189