Okinawa summit was money well spent

By Mr. Ryuichiro Yamazaki

(This letter was written in response to the article appeared in Financial Times, 19 July 2000, regarding the expense of the G8 Summit)


We take issue with Ms Gillian Tett's view that Japan's budget of $743m for the G8 Summit was excessive and could have been better spent on debt relief for least developed countries.

When we decided to host the G8 Summit meeting in Okinawa, a sub-tropical island located 1,000 miles from Tokyo, it was based on a firm determination to ensure the success at whatever cost. In fact, logistical needs were enormous, such as an additional 250,000 telephone circuits and fibre-optic cables for press corps and G8 delegations' use; other telecommunications infrastructure improvement for police use; upgrading inferior road conditions; the necessary transportation and accommodation for more than 20,000 police mobilised from all over Japan for a month to help the Okinawa police force of 1,500 and a 24 hour International Media Centre built to accommodate 4,000 journalists (free food and drinks were included in the centre's management cost). A large police presence was required to deter and cope with any possibility of sabotage, which actually happened at all of the past summit meetings held in Tokyo. All of these measures taken turned out to be useful and effective.

In the meantime, Japan has committed itself to speedy and effective implementation of the Cologne Debt Initiative as well as up to $200m to the World Bank's HIPC Trust Fund. Japan is indeed the leading G8 country in debt relief performance, and, at present, Japan's contribution is, for instance, more than three times that of the UK. Japan provided $15.3bn official development assistance in 1999 alone, or 36 percent of ODA contributions by all G8 countries.

It should be noted that all the people of Okinawa welcomed and offered enormous support to the G8 Summit meeting. Fully understanding the historical meaning of Okinawa's hosting of the summit, the people throughout Japan were united for the success of the summit. Decent journalism requires extensive study of the long and difficult history of Okinawa and the sentiment of the local residents before simply criticising the money spent.

The successful Okinawa G8 summit, setting a direction for the 21st century, is in my view priceless.

(Printed in 31 July 2000)

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