Friday, January 21, 2011


APEC 2011 will cause Hawaii to look in the mirror at itself

by Larry Geller

Watch the hype build as APEC 2011 approaches. Hawaii was stuck with the APEC meeting and DBEDT (Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism) will scramble to justify some kind of  benefit to the state that APEC will magically bring.

In the process, we’ll have to look in the mirror at ourselves, if for no other reason than to straighten our neckties and check our makeup. Yeah, neckties. We might have to learn about those for APEC 2011. We might notice, while we look, that the business advantages DBEDT has boasted all these years have, in fact, no clothes.

What will APEC bring?

First, it will bring attention to Hawaii. That’s certainly not a bad thing, if all goes well. And it should. Honolulu is pretty much as far away from everything as a major city can get. This is good for tourism but bad for business, of course, but also bad for protests. It’s not possible to hop on a bus or find a cheap flight to come here and hold signs.

Ok, but what else?

APEC will bring increased public surveillance. Homeland Security already wants access to private security cameras in the District of Columbia. They might do the same here. Certainly, our government will act to ferret out all the local terrorism it can imagine is here. After all, Hawaii is the only state to celebrate an Islam Day. That should be reason enough for Homeland Security to tighten the screws on us.

They will be watching protest groups and private individuals, checking library records, maybe infiltrating meetings. APEC brings with it Big Brother.

APEC is a huge meeting. That means tourism takes a back seat while the delegates and their entourages fill the hotels, beaches and Waikiki restaurants. One plus: Chinatown won’t have to worry so much about prostitution. On the other hand, how different is this from a large real estate convention, say?

We’ll suddenly hear a lot about the “host culture,” and that is where APEC could make a difference. The presence of world leaders might be an opportunity to display Hawaii’s true history, especially the illegal overthrow of a sovereign nation. There will be TV cameras and reporters to educate, more important than the APEC delegates even.

“Host culture” will be exploited as usual for APEC, as it is for tourism. They’ll hear hotel music, be invited to luaus, and maybe see a grass skirt or two. Our “hosts” have been coopted for profit. There’s not much respect involved, only exploitation. I was surprised that the spell checker accepted “luaus” at the beginning of this paragraph as correct. Yes, we’ve taken it all over.

There will be TV cameras here. That’s the opportunity for Hawaii.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


Thanks for raising questions about the APEC Hype. Apparently, if we are loyal residents of Hawaii, we are supposed to agree the APEC conference is extremely significant to Hawaii's future. The Abercrombie Administration buys into this and has assigned Brian Schatz to help facilitate the event.

The newspaper and politicians are all onboard.

OK, there will be a bump in room occupancy. Some of that trickles down to the rest of us, so I guess THAT will be good. But a convention of the American Dental Association would probably bring in more people, fill more rooms and with a lot fewer security expenses.

Because these attendees are going to be top bankers, finance ministers, corporate leaders and other kleptocrats, I suppose some of htem will make connections with our local elite, leading to mutually profitable business deals, but will that be a net benefit for Hawaii's people? Convince me.

Some of these millionaire kleptocrats will undoubtedly check out our real estate market, perhaps adding to the number of the international elite who already own second, third or fourth "homes" in Hawaii. Hawaii's VERY LOW property taxes, combined with socail calm in a tropical climate, make Hawaii real estate very attractive to the international elite and many high end condo highrises are owned by the absentee rich. Is THAT a net gain for the rest of us?

The State and Federal officials promoting APEC are rarely pressed for a "cost-benefit" analysis. Our official, commercial media gleefully go along with the hype without asking any questions. We are told a "successful"(?) APEC will help demonstrate Hawaii is "ready for business" or will demonstrate our attractiveness as a site for more high-level international conferences.

I don't see it. And I resent the subtle pressures that we should not ask questions and are not entitled to straight answers.

Is APEC "evil"? I dunno. My impression is that APEC was set up by the United States to try to inject itself more into Asian multi-lateral economic and political planning, as an alternative to organizations like ASEAN, where "we" (not you and me, of course), where "we" are excluded and Asian leaders are free to make arrangements according to THEIR interests, (somewhat) free of Washington's influence and hubris.

A legitimate Asia regional multi-lateral organization would include China, but exclude the United States. That is too much for the "only remaining Superpower" to take.

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