To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, March 20, 1999

The view from
Washington Place

BEN Cayetano says he was on the course when the idea hit him. His playing partner was an Asian head of state who stopped here to golf after his annual physical at Stanford University Medical Center. Why shouldn't people come to Hawaii for both world-class golf and top-quality health care?

True, there aren't enough presidents, premiers and kings needing checkups to turn the local economy around. Still, Cayetano says becoming a medical Mecca of the Pacific and Pacific Rim would build on Hawaii's competitive advantages, which he ticks off:

Bullet A multi-ethnic, multicultural society where people from all over feel comfortable.

Bullet A spectacular environment, year-round tropical climate and high quality of life.

Bullet Good hospitals and an advanced telecommunications infrastructure.

The governor sees three opportunities for Hawaii's future: become the Pacific's premier healthcare center, higher education center and gathering place. ''We can't afford to squander the opportunity to make these things happen,'' he said this week.

Great! So, what's stopping us? We've got the hospitals, university and convention center -- plus the hotels, communications and transportation system to support them -- but these are just starting points.

We need to get in sync. When the UH faculty set budget-cut priorities, Cayetano says, closing the medical school was at the top of their list -- not exactly what you'd expect from the premier healthcare and education center of the Pacific. ''Well, once again my perspective is a little bit different than the UH faculty's.''

Then, there's UH's cap on foreign student enrollment, now set at 30 percent but even lower at one time. More than 60 percent of students at Hawaii Pacific University, on the other hand, are from out of state, including 2,300 foreigners. So, the idea has potential.

Speaking of students, Cayetano says he's convinced the places that will prosper in the digital age are those with the best-educated workforces. ''To move to the next level, you need to expand your constituency's ability to be innovative.''

It's called intellectual capital. How do we get it? ''In lower education we need an absolute revolution! Too many of our kids are being left behind,'' Cayetano says. States that have succeeded in improving public education performance have, he says, ''the political will to impose accountability and performance standards.''

Cayetano says the Hawaii Tourism Authority needs to spend a big chunk of its marketing dollars promoting Hawaii as a place to do business, serious business.

He foresees Oahu, the gathering place, becoming the erstwhile Geneva of the Pacific.

Finally, Washington -- that's Washington, D.C., not Washington Place -- needs to appreciate and fund the East West Center.

''Seventy-five percent of the members don't have passports,'' Cayetano says, bemoaning congressional shortsightedness -- this from a guy who used to struggle with the Vision Thing himself.

''My wife, Vicky, reminded me after we met that she didn't vote for me in 1994,'' Ben says, twinkling. ''So, I've come a long way.''

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

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