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Tuesday, May 16, 2000

State of Hawaii

State ironing out
Asian Bank details

Cayetano says the event
will help make Hawaii the
'Geneva of the Pacific'

By Tim Ruel


The state government expects to finish negotiations by early June to bring the Asian Development Bank's 2001 annual meeting to the Hawaii Convention Center.

Gov. Ben Cayetano's office formally announced yesterday that the international pro-development organization had picked Hawaii, though bank representatives told the Star-Bulletin of the selection early last week.

The exact dates of the three-to-four day meeting have not been set but the governor's office said it is scheduled for next May.

"Expected to surpass even the recent (Pacific Basin Economic Council) meeting, the Asian Development Bank meeting will be significant in its impact to our state. It greatly advances our shared vision to make Hawaii the "Geneva of the Pacific'," said Cayetano in a press release.

The bank, founded in 1966, spends about $6 billion annually on loans for development projects in poor Asian nations, such as China, India and Nepal. Japan and the United States are the bank's largest contributors.

The state is still discussing specifics for the meeting with the U.S. Treasury Department, which had the final say on where the event is held.

State and federal officials must decide how to pay for the $1.3 million cost of the convention, which will bring about 3,500 influential people to Hawaii, including heads of state, high-level bank representatives and 500 members of the international media.

Brenda Foster, Cayetano's executive assistant, said she has already received phone calls from members of the Japanese media about the event.

Part of the $1.3 million cost will go to construction of 90 temporary office units for visiting dignitaries, including the heads of state from the bank's 58 member nations.

Foster said the office space is not available at the convention center.

As a direct benefit, the meeting should generate $17 million in tourism spending, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

An indirect benefit for Hawaii could be opportunities for local companies to learn how to get bank contracts, Foster said.

The bank has spent $82 billion on development loans since its inception in 1966, and has an extensive list of consulting companies that do the work, ADB's general counsel Gerald Sumida said yesterday.

The state wants to hold a public seminar that coincides with the bank meeting here and teaches Hawaii businesses about the ADB's bidding process.

For example, Foster said, companies that bid on bank projects must have five permanent full-time staff members, and have worked on three other major projects.

Such a trade show would help defray the ADB meeting's cost, Foster said. Other options include corporate sponsorships and federal funding, which the state is negotiating.

The Treasury Department, host of the meeting, originally called Foster because it liked Hawaii's proposal to host the World Trade Organization meeting, she said.

The state was a finalist for that convention but lost out to Seattle.

"I think one could infer that Hawaii is an excellent venue for meetings" Foster said.

After Foster told the governor of the Treasury's interest, Cayetano sent a delegation to the bank's annual meeting earlier this month in Thailand.

One reason the bank picked Hawaii over other U.S. destinations, including Seattle, was the massive uprising that stopped the WTO's last meeting there in November, an ADB spokesman said last week. The bank sees Hawaii as a safer destination, he said.

Tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police in Seattle, vandalized downtown office buildings, and brought an early end to the meeting. Protesters, bused in from around the country, opposed the WTO's environmental record, its support of free trade, and other policies.

Sumida said protests could occur in Honolulu if the ADB meeting comes here. ADB's recent meeting in Thailand attracted about 2,000 nonviolent demonstrators, who opposed the bank for similar reasons as the WTO protesters.

Local observers do not expect the same turmoil that happened in Seattle or Thailand, because of Honolulu's isolation, and the difficulty of shipping protesters to the state.

"Whenever's there's demonstrators, we look into it as close as possible, and we would have a contingency plan," said Sandra Moreno, vice president for meetings, conventions and incentives for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Since the Treasury is the host, federal protection, including the Secret Service, may be on hand, Foster said.

Cayetano has appointed Walter Dods, chief executive of First Hawaiian Bank parent BancWest Corp., as chairman of the Hawaii Steering Committee to help plan the event.

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