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Economy issues rank high with gubernatorial candidates

Date Posted: 2006-10-19

With election day exactly one month away, Okinawa’s two gubernatorial candidates are pushing economic and tourism issues to attract attention of voters.

Liberal Democratic Party candidate Hirota Nakaima calls economic promotion and employment problems complex, but the most important issues facing residents. At the same time, the 67-year-old businessman-turned-politician says voters must speak out about the relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Henoko.

Both Nakaima, who’s a member of Governor Keiichi Inamine’s party, and fellow challenger Keiko Itokazu backed by a coalition of leftist parties, are rejecting the proposed V-shape runway system being proposed for the replacement airfield facility in the Nago City area. Speaking at a symposium staged by Shimpo Newspaper Company, Nakaima said “I’ll discuss the issue with local committee members, listen to what they want, then discuss the matter with the central government so decisions may be made quickly.”

Itokazu, on the other hand, is staunchly opposed to the entire facility plan. “I don’t agree with making a new air station on Okinawa,” she says, adding “it has to be taken outside Okinawa.” She insists the real issue is promoting a stronger program to return Okinawan lands to Okinawa, out of American military control.

Okinawa must respond to employment and economic matters, Nakaima says. “Current industries and companies should first and foremost find ways to protect business while bringing in new industrial business to the prefecture.” If investments spread to Okinawa, “Employment will become bigger, offering new jobs to residents.”

Tourists are a boon to the Okinawa economy, and Itokazu thinks more can be done. “Tourism business should be increased, and we should be doing more to promote our prefecture tourism,” she told the symposium.

Education was another focal point at the Shimpo forum. “Hometown culture and history should be beefed up,” according to Nakaima. “We should let children see, touch and do something more.” One easy move, he says, is to make entry to museums and cultural sites free for youngsters.

Itokazu favors expanding education to older residents. “School classrooms should be used for senior citizens day service areas. With this daily lifestyle,” she says, “children and senior citizens can make friendships together.

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