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Nago reaps megabucks for accepting new airfield

Date Posted: 2006-06-16

A 1999 agreement pledged ¥100 billion to Nago City as an incentive to take the airfield destined to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station.

Halfway through the ten-year budget commitment, officials say 131 development projects with a street value of ¥40.3 billion have been accomplished in Nago City’s favor. Public construction involved 46 projects totaling ¥10.7 billion, while 85 other projects were valued at ¥29.6 billion.

“This has added some 1,000 jobs,” says Yuriko Koike, Minister of State for Okinawa and the Northern Territories Affairs, noting “It has also led to a population increase of more than 2,300 for Nago. She says the public works projects are significant.

Nago City agreed in 1999 to allow the heliport to be built, on condition that the region receive plenty of attention—and money—from the government. The deal was brokered by the latge Nago mayor, Tateo Kishimoto. Already, funding has resulted in the Nago City Multi Media Center, the National Technology College, and a major land fill project at Nago Port.

While the public monies have benefited Nago in the way of jobs, particularly for young people, not everyone agrees on the programs. Opponents say the new money is creating a dependence on big government, instead of local creativity. Base opponents go a step farther, telling lawmakers “we don’t need more money from the government, and we definitely don’t want or need the base.” Instead of military bases in the northern region, the opponents are advocating private enterprise and promotion programs to build business. One such program calls for promoting Okinawa’s Aguu black pig.

Okinawa has, over the past ten years, received more than ¥200 billion in exchange for its role as host for military bases. Although the compensation is significant, government officials say they may find themselves closing the money supply to Okinawa to get its attention in support of its development projects. Many Okinawa businessmen are expressing concerns that could happen.

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