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Hatoyama’s Okinawa budget promises now being studied

Date Posted: 2009-10-22

Okinawa businesses and government agencies are evaluating Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s performance as he passes his first month in the office.

The Prime Minister’s Democratic Party of Japan, in its manifesto leading up to August elections that ousted the Liberal Democratic Party from office after more than five decades, promised significant changes for Okinawa, and now local leaders are wondering how many of those promises and commitments will actually come to fruition.

The DPJ promised to cut funding for construction of the new Ishigaki Airport, and it appears that will actually happen. A decision is expected by December. The Hatoyama government is also expected to cut funding to regional airports that are not heavily used. There are plans afoot to slash dam construction, and also to eliminate the local Okinawa General Bureau Office.

With Okinawa subsidies and promotion budgets being chopped, there’s talk the Okinawa reversion promotion development projects may be abolished. Okinawa faces major cutbacks in promotion funding. Eliminating freeway charges by 2012, another of the new government’s promises, is already moving forward with fees on Okinawa Expressway scheduled to disappear from Apr. 1 nest year. A Prefecture Road Section chief says “It will help a lot in eliminating Okinawa traffic jams, plus northern, central and southern districts will see economic developments that will create profits.”

At the same time, money is needed to complete the new road to connect Highway 58 and Route 329 in Awase and Kitanakagusuku, and the construction may be stymied by financial shortfalls. Road tariffs were used to pay expressway maintenance and other road maintenance, but with the government making the highways toll free, officials say “we don’t know how much we’ll get in the new budget for road maintenance.”

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