Mikio Shimoji presents his Okinawa vision for Governor race

Mikio Shimoji, who has declared his candidacy in the November gubernatorial election, and is the former Minister in Charge of Privatizing the Postal Service, held a press conference, Thursday, in a hotel in Naha, announcing his campaign pledge for the gubernatorial race.

Shimoji stated that the U.S. military base issue is the cause of the long-term stagnation of Okinawa’s economy. His main theme was to redress the income gap between people in Okinawa and mainland Japan.  To rectify the situation, Shimoji spelled out three pillars of reform; “education, reformation and doubling of Okinawa Prefecture people’s income.” He also added the “prefectural referendum” to the list pointing to his call to hold a prefecture-wide referendum on construction of the MCAS Futenma replacement facility in Henoko.

Shimoji says, “In this gubernatorial election, let’s put an end to Okinawa’s postwar era. There needs to be a change in the thinking that the base issue is always the object of dispute.”

Shimoji said that regarding his prefectural referendum about the Henoko issue, it should question pros and cons of the replacement facility in Henoko.  If the public will shows clear opposition to the construction of the facility, “We should negotiate an immediate cessation of the construction work, and the cancellation of the project with the central government.” Even if the government moves forward with the construction, Shimoji is planning to present an alternative or, as he indicates, “One of the choices,” to conduct a referendum asking an independent opinion of Okinawan people.

Regarding the “education reform,” Shimoji aims at prefecture-wide free-of -charge education that would cover childcare costs and school meal services from nursery through junior high school. According to Shimoji, his free education program would cost 19.3 billion yen, which would be allotted from the revenue from the prefectural tax and the government grant.

Talking about “doubling of income,” Shimoji aims at increasing the Okinawa GDP by 1.6 times or by six trillion in 10 years, while the prefectural income per capita would increase from about 2.02 million yen now to 3 million yen.

Regarding the Okinawa 21st Century Vision Plan that the Prefectural Government drew up in 2012 as the path for the Okinawa promotion, Shimoji would review the whole document.  “Basically all of the plan would be reviewed,” Shimoji says. If necessary, Shimoji would call for a complete change in the Act on Special Measures for the Promotion and Development of Okinawa.