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Hawaii - Economy

Hawaii Roughly half of all land in Hawaii is government owned, with the state, not the federal government, controlling 80 percent of that land. Most of it is in the agriculturally less desirable portions of the islands, and the bulk is in forest reserves and conservation districts. Most federal lands are primarily in national parks on the Big Island and Maui, or in military holdings on Oahu and Kahoolawe.

Seven-eighths of all privately owned land in Hawaii is in the hands of only 39 owners; each owns 2,000 hectares or more. Six different landowners each control more than 40,000 hectares out of a state total of about 1,040,000 hectares. Smaller unit ownership of private land is most extensive on Oahu, but even there the larger owners control more than two-thirds of all privately owned land. Two of the islands, Lanai and Niihau, are each nearly entirely controlled by a single owner, and on all of the other islands (except Oahu) major landowners control about 90 percent of all privately held property.

Most of these large landholdings were created during the 19th century period of freewheeling exploitation on the islands. Land had previously been held entirely by the monarchies. This land passed into the hands of non-Hawaiian private owners during the political decline of the monarchy. With the deaths of the early owners, most estates have been given over to trusts to administer rather than passing directly to heirs. This has made it difficult to break up the ownership patterns, which has led to high land values and pockets of high population density.

Sugar, and later pineapples, fueled the Hawaiian economy for many decades after the 1860s. The economy remained primarily agricultural until the late 1940s. In recent decades, agriculture has continued to show modest gains in income, but its relative importance has declined. Only one Hawaiian worker in 30 is currently employed in agriculture.

However, Hawaii continues to provide a substantial share of the world's sugar harvest, and its production of pineapples is about 650,000 tons annually, making it the world's largest supplier of pineapples.

Gross economic statistics overwhelmingly emphasize the position of Oahu, where more than 80 percent of the state's economy is concentrated. The role of agriculture remains great on the other islands. Both Lanai and Molokai depend on pineapples for much of their employment and income. Livestock and sugar form the backbone of the economy on the Big Island, as do sugar and pineapples on Maui and Kauai. As agriculture declined and lost its dominance over the Hawaiian economy, its place was first taken by the federal government. Over the past several decades, governmental expenditures have increased at a rate roughly comparable to the growth of the total economy, maintaining about a one-third share of all expenditures. Most of this has come from the military, which controls almost 25 percent of Oahu, including the land around Pearl Harbor, one of the finest natural harbors in the Pacific. Nearly one Hawaiian worker in four is an employee of the military, and military personnel and their dependents together represent over 10 percent of Hawaii's population. The armed forces are also the largest civilian employer in the state.

Tourism is a major industry, with over 4.5 million people visiting the state each year. Tourism has become the principal growth sector of the economy, increasing its share of total island income from 4 percent in 1950 to over 30 percent today.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:23:59 ZULU