LDP approves ¥20 bil. reduction in budgetary request for Okinawa

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Construction for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station takes place in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, in April.

The Cabinet Office’s plan to request ¥279.8 billion in fiscal 2023 for the promotion of Okinawa Prefecture has been approved by the Liberal Democratic Party’s Research Commission for the Promotion and Development of Okinawa.

This marks a drop of ¥20 billion from the request made for the current fiscal year, which was already below the ¥300 billion mark.

The cut is aimed partly at undermining Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki before the upcoming gubernatorial election. Voting is to take place on Sept. 11, with ballots counted the same day.

Tamaki opposes the government’s plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station within the prefecture, from Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago.

Included in the ¥279.8 billion is a lump-sum subsidy from the central government that the prefectural and municipal governments can use at their own discretion. This has been set at ¥76.2 billion, the same amount as in the initial budget for fiscal 2022.

“I interpret it [the budgetary request] as planting various seeds for the future,” commission chair Yuko Obuchi told reporters following a Tuesday meeting of the commission.

However, there is a huge gap between the amount approved by the commission and that sought by Tamaki, who called for funding on the level of ¥300 billion. A senior official of the Okinawa prefectural government said angrily: “That’s too cruel. This is harassment before the election.”

In 2013, the government promised then Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima it would secure funding for Okinawa development at least on the level of ¥300 billion a year until fiscal 2021. Nakaima had approved landfill work in Henoko, and the government kept that promise.

In the Okinawa gubernatorial election in 2014, the so-called All Okinawa forces that advocated blocking the relocation took over the prefectural administration. After that, funding for the promotion of Okinawa began to decline.

According to a senior official in the Cabinet Office, the prevailing view in the government is that “there’s no need to lend an ear to the requests of the prefectural government while we can’t get its cooperation on the relocation.”

Atsushi Sakima, a former Ginowan mayor who is endorsed by both the LDP and Komeito for the gubernatorial election, has emphasized his ties with the central government and the ruling parties, and is calling for ¥350 billion in outlays for Okinawa’s promotion.