Monday, April 12, 1999

State Hospital plan
changed for the better

Bullet The issue: The state proposed closing the hospital in Kaneohe and sending most of its patients to other programs.
Bullet Our view: The revised proposal seems more reasonable.

THE Cayetano administration's proposal to close the State Hospital in Kaneohe and distribute its mentally ill patients to community-based facilities has been modified in a way that should make it more acceptable.

Originally only a dozen or so of the most dangerous patients were to have remained at the hospital while the rest were transferred to halfway houses and outpatient treatment programs. The revised plan calls for an 80-bed secure psychiatric rehabilitation facility to be maintained on the hospital grounds. That facility would be for patients confined to the hospital by court order because of criminal violations.

The change would account for nearly half of the 170 State Hospital patients and should ease concern that some would be inappropriately released into the community. The plan now calls for moving several dozen patients to private acute-care facilities and a comparable number to community settings such as halfway houses.

In approving the plan, the House Finance Committee rewrote the measure to provide for legislative oversight over the transition of behavioral health care from the state to the private sector. House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine explained that legislators are skeptical of administration claims that the move would save money, avoid layoffs and ensure that treatment for the patients would not be diminished.

The administration made the proposal to close the hospital to avoid having the federal court appoint a special master to oversee the facility, which could result in vastly increased expense for the state. But that threat should not be allowed to override the need to provide appropriate care, which seemed to be a problem with the original proposal.


Yeltsin impeachment

Bullet The issue: The Russian Parliament is opening a debate on impeachment of President Boris Yeltsin.
Bullet Our view: Yeltsin could play a role in reaching a peace settlement in Kosovo.

If Congress can impeach President Clinton, why can't the Russian Parliament impeach President Yeltsin? Maybe it will. Maybe Russia will aim strategic missiles at NATO countries in response for their air strikes against Yugoslavia. Yeltsin discussed that possibility with the speaker of Parliament, but the order hasn't been given. The cloud of uncertainty over Moscow is thicker than ever.

Parliament has put off a final decision on when to open an impeachment debate on Yeltsin, tentatively set for Thursday. It's considered the most serious effort yet to oust the Russian leader. Impeachment is still considered a long shot. However, Yeltsin's frequent illnesses and the economic crisis have left him weakened politically. The motion must win a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament and approval by Russia's highest courts.

Also a long shot is the proposal to aim strategic missiles at NATO countries. In a symbolic step designed to reduce tensions, Russia and the United States stopped aiming their missiles at each other. But it would not be difficult to retarget the missiles.

Yeltsin has said repeatedly that Russia will not be drawn into the Yugoslav conflict militarily. He could hardly do so and expect the West to provide the financial aid that Russia desperately needs.

But Moscow is very unhappy with the NATO attacks on its ally. Retargeting the missiles would be a way to express that displeasure without crossing the line of overt intervention.

Russia still has influence in Belgrade and might be useful as a diplomatic intermediary to reach a settlement. Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has already been active in the Kosovo conflict, although without success. But to retain the potential for this role Yeltsin has to be careful not to antagonize the Western allies too much -- and to survive the assaults of his political opponents at home.


Japanese economy

Bullet The issue: The Japanese stock market has surged this year.
Bullet Our view: Optimism about an economic recovery in Japan has yet to be borne out.

WISHFUL thinking or shrewd forecasting? The runup in the Japanese stock market could be either. The Nikkei 225 stock average has surged almost 22 percent this year.

Meanwhile unemployment has reached a postwar high and consumer spending remains depressed. Japanese companies have announced sharp cutbacks. The economy is shrinking.

What is the reason for the optimism that Japan may be coming out of recession? It's the government's infusion of capital to salvage the banking system, which has been paralyzed by $600 billion worth of bad loans.

There is also the attempt of major companies to overhaul their operations and return to profitability. NEC Corp. announced it would cut 15,000 jobs over three years. Sony and Toshiba also announced cutbacks.

Much of the optimism stems from foreign investors, who have bought more Japanese stocks than they sold for the last five months after avoiding Japan in recent years.

It's too soon to tell whether the latest effort at rescuing the banks and restructuring corporations will fare better than its disappointing predecessors.

If the formidable Japanese economy should shake off its stagnation, it could ignite other Asian economies that have been languishing since the 1997 collapse. It would also be welcome in Hawaii, so dependent on Japanese visitors. But at this point there is no conclusive evidence of a revival, only investors' optimism.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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