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Ben Cayetano

Former Governor

Photo: Olivier Koning

Fifty years ago, statehood for Hawaii launched a period of massive economic growth in what had been a sleepy agrarian economy. Hawaii would never be the same. On the occasion of Hawaii’s 50th anniversary as a state, Hawaii Business has asked some of our most thoughtful local leaders to reflect not so much on the past but rather on the future. Where will we be 50 years from now? Where should we be? This month: former Gov. Ben Cayetano.

In a general way, what will Hawaii look like 50 years from today?

A: Unless a new direction is taken, tourism will continue to dominate Hawaii’s economy, which means more resort development, hotels, high-end housing — all of which will have a negative impact on the environment, the state’s natural resources and the quality of life in Hawaii.

Q: What is the greatest problem Hawaii will have to confront over the next 50 years?

A: Controlling development, preserving Hawaii’s beautiful environment and quality of life for Hawaii’s people. Finding a way to balance real estate development with the resource-carrying capacities of our Islands.

Q: What is the best way to deal with that problem?

A: Prohibit more new hotel or resort development — allow new hotels to be built only on existing hotel sites. Do a definitive study on the Islands’ resource-carrying capacity and limit or restrict real estate development accordingly.

Q: What is Hawaii’s greatest opportunity over the next 50 years?

A: Hawaii can become the premier healthcare center of the Pacific Rim as well as a center for the development of biotechnology. Moreover, Hawaii is probably the safest place in the world from terroristic attacks, which makes it an ideal place for meetings and conferences of world leaders and organizations.

Q: From your perspective, what is the best way to make that opportunity a reality?

A: Invest heavily in developing a first-rate college of engineering and develop the John A. Burns School of Medicine into a world-class center of learning and research. Reform public education to ensure that all children receive an education that equips them to be useful, productive citizens of the world, not just the state.

Q: In what way will Hawaii be most different from today?

A: Hawaii’s population will continue to be the most diverse in the world and ethnic and racial lines will be blurred further. If its resource-carrying capacity is not factored into planning real estate development and population growth, Hawaii’s beautiful environment will deteriorate.

Q: In what way will Hawaii’s future most resemble today and why?

A: The Hawaiian culture — the Aloha Spirit — will continue to be the glue that holds Hawaii’s people together. Hawaii residents will hold an even greater affinity for the Hawaiian culture as their knowledge of the cultures of their parents’ or grandparents’ homelands fades.

Q: It can be argued that the biggest decision of the recent past was to pursue statehood. What is the one big decision leaders of today might make that would reverberate 50 years into the future?

A: The crafting of a strategy that will help develop meaningful and affordable alternatives to fossil fuels.

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