To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, December 4, 1999

Down so long,
it looks like up

ISLAND business people got good news this week from an unlikely source, a bank. Not even First Hawaiian's Walter Dods, Mr. Thumbs Up, has had much good to say about Hawaii's economy the last few years, but this week there were signs of a turnaround.

Leroy Laney, the bank's economist laid it on the line: The U.S. economy is in excellent shape and growing like the halekoa in my back yard. "This time next year, there is no reason to believe the U.S. economy will not be growing just as fast as it is today," he said. Even better for us here, Japan seems finally to have bottomed out and the bleeding has stopped in most of Asia.

Moreover, despite a Hawaii income tax cut, state tax revenues have actually increased year over year and our economic indicators have risen four straight quarters. Unemployment is down 1 percent from last year to 5.5 percent and the job count has stabilized. Bankruptcy filings fell for the first time since 1995.

Hawaii real estate is hopping and building permits are up 25 percent from January through September. People are enjoying 2 percent more income, especially since the inflation rate is manini -- up only .4 percent in the first half of 1999.

Best of all, visitor arrivals are forecast to go up 3.5 percent in Y2K and might do even better, Laney says. "Hawaii still has a way to go before its state economy compares well to the average of its 49 counterparts in the U.S., but at least, and at last, things are looking up some."

Richard Koo of Tokyo's Nomura Securities echoed Laney's optimism. He says Japan has made four major U-turns: Government spending is finally having the desired stimulating effect; asset prices have ended their free fall; consumer confidence is picking up; and the yen is recovering strength, prompting recovery in the rest of the Asian economies.

"I think the worst is behind us," Koo said.


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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