BOH economist says Iraq war is coming

Predicts economy back to normal by summer

KALAPAKI BEACH – We now know there is a word for feelings of uneasiness regarding the fear of a pending Gulf War that has already made people re-think Kaua’i vacation plans.

It’s called “Iraqnaphobia.”

Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawai’i senior vice president and chief economist, admitted yesterday he borrowed the word from another banker.

But he said the island and state’s visitor-arrival counts over the last several months are down because of the fear of a coming war.

This fear is also influencing “pullbacks” in discretionary consumer spending, especially among Americans.

Forecasting impacts of international events on the state economy is one of his jobs, and Brewbaker told an invited audience of Bank of Hawai’i clients and customers yesterday that he fears war is coming.

“I have a feeling that there’s another one out there,” he said over lunch at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club here.

If things go as the economist predicts, the war will be a quick and efficient one, over by summer.

With Kaua’i and the state being a “mature, resilient visitor destination,” the long-term impacts should be less that those experienced after the 1982 and 1992 hurricanes, past national recessions and other national and global events that have negatively impacted tourism and the state’s economy.

During the war, the all-important domestic visitor likely will not travel to Hawai’i as much as before or after the war.

But, once the war is over, things will quickly return to normal, an effect Kaua’i and the state experienced soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

Barring war, both the state and national economies are expected to continue to pick up positive, forward momentum, said Brewbaker and William “Bill” Barton, Bank of Hawai’i senior vice president and chief investment officer.

“We’ve had a great run the last few years,” Brewbaker said of gains in personal income. “I’m fairly sure we’re not through with this growth cycle.”

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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