New 10-year Okinawa growth bill eyed

Kyodo

The government hopes to turn Okinawa into an international distribution and tourism hub by enacting a new law in March on the prefecture’s economic development over the next decade.

Under the envisaged law, Okinawa’s governor would work out an economic development program for the prefecture based on its close proximity to China and Southeast Asia, a draft bill showed Friday.

The program would include selecting areas where logistics and tourism companies can enjoy tax and other breaks, according to the draft.

The legislation will also stipulate that the central government would provide untied subsidies to Okinawa, the draft said.

The bill is designed to replace the law on special measures to stimulate Okinawa’s economy, which expires March 31, the end of the current fiscal year, and serve as a guideline for the prefecture’s future economic development.

The central government is hoping the proposed law will help achieve a breakthrough in the long-delayed relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a site further north on Okinawa Island. The prefecture hosts the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan and is adamantly opposed to relocating the base within Okinawa.

The government is planning to submit a bill consisting of around 120 articles when the ordinary Diet session opens later this month and hopes to have it enacted in March, so that it can take effect in fiscal 2012, which starts April 1.

The new economic program would be decided around summer.

According to the draft, the central and local governments would grant tax breaks to businesses operating in international distribution areas. The central government would designate such areas based on the recommendations of Okinawa’s governor.

Central government officials said areas near Naha airport and Naha port would likely be included, and that they hope to turn the areas into industrial bases linking Japan with China, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

As for measures to promote tourism in Okinawa, tax breaks would be granted to businesses operating in areas designated as tourism spots by the governor, the draft bill says.