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Closing Bases Would Benefit The Economy

By: Mamoru Kaneshima

Date Posted: 2000-09-01

In response to Anita Groves in your August 24 issue and Big Beer in your August 17 issue Groves says she has “always respected Okinawans and their land and I understand that I am a guest and only a guest on their homeland for a short period of time”. She then writes angrily about the idea that Okinawans could use American buildings when the bases are removed. Well of course we would use them. What do you expect? Would you prefer to do what Indonesian troops took when they left East Timor? They burned and destroyed them.

Opening the gates and converting base buildings to peaceful uses is the only sensible option for the future. Be sure, it will happen one day and this might be sooner than you think. Just before Corazon Aquino took power in the Phillipines nobody expected the dictator Marcos’s rule and his close relations with the Americans to end. They did. Predictions of disaster were made about closing the Subic Bay Naval base. Sure some businesses closed. Change is never easy. For example there were many disappointed tailors and the bar trade took a bad hit. But new businesses opened which now contribute more to the local economy than the US navy did.

Groves questions the figure of 5%, as the US military contribution to the Okinawan prefectural production. I refer her to Robert J. Hewitt’s analysis of the Okinawan economy in Gateway Network News Vol.1. # 4: www.gnn.wwma.net: “military related spending comprising about 5% GPP.”

Big Beer seems to think if 5% of an economic element is removed, leaving 95%, this would be a disaster. Some disruption would be caused, sure. It would not be too much because of all the uses that could be found for the base land.

Americans who like Okinawa and are experts at their businesses could stay. They could even stay in the buildings they occupy now. But those businesses would have to open to the wider community.

We are not anti-American, just anti-military. You would be too if your land had been used as a battleground by two enemies who were not your enemies and you had lost a third of your population.

On the question of tourism. Okinawa is already a very popular tourist destination for mainland Japanese and Taiwanese. With the opening of direct flights to Shanghai (one of the richest cities in China) there is plenty of opportunity for growth.

One final point. I did get some figures wrong in my previous letter. The number of Okinawans employed on all bases on the island is not 15000. It is about 8000. To say 8000 new jobs could not be created using 20% of the prime land the bases occupy is surely too pessimistic.

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