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SECURITY > Okinawa

Okinawa takes wait-and-see approach to gov’t pressure to cut development budget

  • August 11, 2016
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , p. 7
  • Translation

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga held separate meetings with senior government and ruling party officials on Aug. 10 to request that FY17 allocations for Okinawa’s development be kept above the 300 billion yen level. Abe administration officials have implied recently that Okinawa’s budget may be reduced on grounds of its negative stance on base issues. However, Onaga did not try to confirm the real intent behind these statements since he knows that it will be difficult to make drastic budget cuts on account of the nature of the allocations.

 

Onaga handed over copies of Okinawa’s requests regarding the FY17 budget at separate meetings with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Okinawa Affairs Minister Yosuke Tsuruho, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, and other officials. He gave them presents of the Okinawan liquor awamori in his effort to create an amicable atmosphere.

 

After the meetings, Onaga stressed to reporters that administration officials are keen on Okinawa’s economic development. He also indicated no concern about the statements of Suga and Tsuruho on Aug. 4 that effectively linked the development budget to the base issues, a policy avoided by past administrations. He said: “It doesn’t seem that there will be linkage in the real sense.”

 

The reason Onaga could remain unaffected by the administration’s pressure is that allocations relating to the utilization of returned military land subject to reductions constitute only a small part of the development budget.

 

The total FY16 budget for Okinawa’s development is 335 billion yen, made up mostly of lump-sum subsidies that Okinawa can use freely and public work spending for infrastructure projects such as the Naha Airport and ports. Only 1.2 billion yen of the allocations is related to the use of returned land. Even if the budget is linked to base issues, the actual impact will be limited.

 

Moreover, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a promise to the former governor, who cooperated with the plan to build a new military base in Henoko, Nago City, for the relocation of the Futenma Air Station, to provide Okinawa with a development budget of at least 300 billion yen each fiscal year. If this promise is broken on account of Onaga’s position on the base issues, this will aggravate Okinawa’s antagonism toward the Tokyo government.

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