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  • Guam
  • Kelly G. Marsh (bio)

Guam's Annual Liberation Day festivities in July 2007 marked the sixty-third anniversary of relief from occupying forces in World War II. However, a bill meant to compensate residents for the forced labor, torture, injury, and death that occurred during the Japanese occupation of the island made little progress. The Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act passed the House but remained stalled in the Senate (PDN, 6 March, 8 June 2008).

Meanwhile, debate continued about the massive buildup of US military forces, which involves an influx of equipment and personnel estimated to swell Guam's population by about 40, 000 over the next six years. The Government of Guam (GovGuam) consultant kpmg of Washington dc identified three billion dollars worth of projects necessary for the local government to prepare for the buildup. On the federal side, a draft master plan was released that designated the Finagayan area as the preferred site for [End Page 118] the US Marine base, but dropped any reference to a previously promoted one-billion-dollar road. In the background of a rising military presence and resulting strains on infrastructure, the Guam Waterworks Authority objected to a 100 percent increase in the price the US Navy sells water from the Fena Reservoir to the island's local community. Concerns about the traffic and other potential burdens caused some to question the actual benefits versus costs for the Guam community (PDN, 25 April 2008). Local leaders raised questions about the buildup and associated funding needs to both US Senate and House committees with jurisdiction over Guam. Concerns about the expanded military presence on Guam also reinvigorated the ongoing debate on island landownership, with calls for the return of federal property to ancestral landowners.

The dominant economic news focused on preparations for military buildup, Tumon luxury condo development, and the rising cost of living. The consumer price index in early 2008 rose by 4. 5 percent from the previous year (PDN, 8 April 2008). Local economists asserted that wages had not kept pace with inflation even with a July increase in the minimum wage (PDN, 1 Jan, 8 Jan 2008). The public especially focused on rising gas prices, and increasing power and water rates (PDN, 1 Aug 2007; 22 April 2008). Prices for single-family homes rose 19 percent from the previous year.

Also on the rise was opposition to the construction of luxury condominiums in Tumon Bay. The Guam Land Use Commission had approved projects involving almost 1, 500 condo units with more applications pending, including a development of 608 condo units and 32 villas next to Ypao Beach Park. Although the influx of construction dollars was welcomed, there was increasing public concern about the impact of these projects on the quality of life in the Tumon area (PDN, 19 May 2007). The Guam Waterworks authority had already announced a moratorium on water and wastewater connection in parts of Hagåtña and Tamuning, including a section of Tumon Bay, because of increasing strains on existing infrastructure in those neighborhoods.

Business leaders and economists agreed that the economic downturn in the US mainland had little negative impact on Guam, inasmuch as the local economy was more tied to the Japanese and South Korean economies. On the other hand, declines in interest rates benefited local residents for their home and car loans. The federal tax rebate program implemented nationwide to combat the economic downturn was also extended to Guam, thereby benefiting the local economy. As Guam welcomed its twenty-millionth visitor from Japan in September, the decline in the dollar was seen to help tourism, but also impact the price of imported goods (PDN, 20 Sept 2007). Construction fueled a rise in employment by 990 jobs from the previous year (PDN, 8 March 2008). In general, the island's economy was seen as gradually improving (PDN, 24 Jan 2008).

In July 2007, the local government received a $21. 7 million windfall in federal reimbursements, which allowed Governor Felix Camacho to cancel plans for severe budget cuts and worker furloughs (PDN, 14 July 2007). [End Page 119] In November 2007, GovGuam issued $150 million in bonds to refinance existing bond debt and...


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pp. 118-124
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