Tamaki steps up call for funding, gets no answer from Tokyo

NAHA—The Cabinet member tasked with handling Okinawa issues visited the southern prefecture for the first time and declined to commit to securing more funds for the local government.

Naoki Okada, who was appointed state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs in the Cabinet reshuffle last month, met with Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki in Naha on Sept. 14, three days after Tamaki was re-elected to a second term.

Tamaki presented Okada with a 30-page statement calling for an increase in the central government’s budget request for fiscal 2023 to promote and develop Okinawa Prefecture.

A number of measures were included in the statement.

“I would like to ask for your assistance in securing more funds for our prefecture,” Tamaki said.

Okada replied, “We are ready to fiercely negotiate in compiling budgets.”

But he did not mention if an increase in the budget was likely.

The Cabinet Office late last month announced it would seek 279.8 billion yen ($1.92 billion) for the annual budget for Okinawa Prefecture, about 20 billion yen less than last year’s budget request.

The reduction was seen as punishment against the prefecture and Tamaki for their opposition to the central government’s project to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to a new base off the Henoko district of Nago, also in the prefecture.

In Tamaki’s first term, the Cabinet Office for the first time in 10 years slashed the request to 299.8 billion yen for the fiscal 2022 budget.

Until then, the central government had set aside more than 300 billion yen each year for Okinawa Prefecture under a pledge by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe agreed on that number after then Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima gave consent to the U.S. base project in 2013.

During this year’s governor race, Tamaki denounced the central government’s handling of the prefecture.

“The system of paying taxes would be frayed if we taxpayers cannot get funds to make a living just because we oppose” the U.S. base project, Tamaki said.

Read More: Tamaki steps up call for funding, gets no answer from Tokyo

2022-09-15 00:17:00

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