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To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, May 20, 2000

Geneva or Seattle
of the Pacific?

BEN Cayetano has gotten better at that Vision Thing. When he first awoke in Washington Place, adrift in the economic flotsam of the Waihee administration, he only managed lame ideas like building a Disneyland in Diamond Head.

Six years later, with the economy finally starting to turn around, he's promoting Hawaii as "The Geneva of the Pacific," host to the world's ambassadors, negotiators and thinkers. We've certainly got the facilities: Waikiki's hotels and the Hawaii Convention Center can handle gatherings of just about any size and the East-West Center is a mini-United Nations.

Such ambitions can have pitfalls, however, as Seattle learned when the World Trade Organization met there. Bob Lees, secretary general of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, was quick to say, before that group came to town last March, that PBEC was nothing like WTO. We had nothing to fear.

Lees was correct. PBEC attracted only a few protesters, some Big Island folks upset at Cayetano's water policy and determined to spit in his soup, so to speak. They barked about picketing the convention center, but there was no bite. As far as I could tell, they never showed up.

Cayetano made his Geneva of the Pacific comment when he announced that Honolulu will host next May's Asian Development Bank meeting.

Gerry Sumida, a former Hawaii attorney now with the bank in Manila, told a meeting of corporate planners here this week that ADB, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have similar missions, providing loans to governments for development projects.

ADB's goals are noble: reducing poverty and infant mortality, good government, better education, supporting women's rights and building stronger private economies. Its last meeting, in Thailand, wasn't without unrest, however.

Accommodating organizations with opposing points of view is part of ADB's plan and Hawaii's remote location should keep Seattle-style hooligans away.

Drowning dissent in a sea of warm aloha couldn't hurt, either, but we must remember that, running with the big dogs, we could get bit.

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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