Dan Lewis: Tribes face tough decisions as they prepare for future
"Everywhere you turn – radio, television, Internet or the newspaper – the debate continues about whether we have come through the worst of the recession, or will we enter a double-dip recession? And even if the dreaded double-dip does not occur, there appears to be a growing chorus that the economic recovery will take years rather than months to occur. Recently Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve governor and current senior advisor to President Obama, said, “People are nervous about the long-term outlook, and they should be.”

The fiscal decisions that our nation, the states, and tribal governments will have to make are not going to be easy. Tribal leaders need to confront these issues now by obtaining an unvarnished assessment of their financial standing and the realistic options they have for addressing their own needs, revisit policies and investments that have become a burden on tribal budgets, and then have the courage to chart a new and transparent course and the discipline to follow through.

The economic downturn is already exacerbating the pain felt by some tribes who have been burned by poor investment decisions off-reservation, co-signing loans for other tribes that went bad, and making hasty decisions on various non-gaming and community development projects all of which consumed free cash flow, affected financing capacity and/or tapped into tribal liquidity reserves.

We see the economic and fiscal crisis our country is facing and wonder how these things could have happened. Then the perfect storm hits our boats and we wonder why we are not prepared. Did the good times blind us? Did we really investigate the potential downside scenarios of all the community and economic development projects we approved? Did we set parameters for what areas we were willing to invest in and what we expected our return on investment to be, and carefully examine the soundness of any analysis?"

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Dan Lewis: Remembering the future (Indian Country Today 8/9)