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Tourism programs cause 18% increase in Okinawa budget

Date Posted: 2007-08-31

Okinawa's operating budget for the coming fiscal year has been set at Y312.5 billion.

The lion’s share of an 18.3% increase in the 2008 budget is attributed to tourism related projects, according to the central government Cabinet Office Okinawa Section, which published the budget this week. It said a planned network of Information Technology business parks to promote IT development in the Prefecture was another large infrastructure project requiring funding.

The IT and tourism projects have been in planning stages for several years, and officials say they’re the best bet for expanding Okinawa’s economic development. At the same time, funding for software development businesses was slashed 5.4%, and special public works allocations for local governments hosting military bases were cut completely.

Tourism was the big winner, with the largest chunk of funds earmarked for promoting international tourism to Okinawa. International tourism marketing will emphasize Okinawa’s natural beauty, and encourage the utilization of local special talents. Resort areas will get improvement funding to boost standards in order to attract more overseas visitors to the prefecture.

Construction on a network of IT industry parks at various locations within the prefecture begins next year, in part to compensate loss of jobs in the construction sector. The construction industry has felt the cut in large scale public construction projects.

Overall, Okinawa scored a major increase in public work investment in the budget. The transfer of the Red Cross Hospital in Naha to another location within the city is included, and three elementary schools in Tomishiro City will be totally rebuilt.

Construction work on the infrastructure for the Okinawa Graduate University Campus in Onna Village is finally slated to begin in full next year. The ground breaking ceremony at the location was held in April this year, and now the budget reserved for the graduate university went up 78.7% to \15.5 billion. The plans call for laboratories for 20 researchers in the university to be completed within next two years. The government plans to complete the campus and have the university operational in 2012.

A total of \13 billion has been tagged in the new budget to complete the 20-kilometer extension of the Okinawa Expressway to Naha Airport. Another large road construction project is to link Itoman City to Naha, and finally to Yomitan with the Okinawa West Coast Road. Portions of the Okinawa West Coast Road are already under construction to ease congestion on Highway 58 and Route 331.

The budget also contains an allocation for maintenance work for the undersea cable connecting Miyako Island to Okinawa’s main island.

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