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2008年5月30日 (金)


(May. 30, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

Govt must fully respect decentralization plan

地方分権改革 政府は勧告を最大限尊重せよ(5月30日付・読売社説)

A new set of proposals by a government panel offers a new foothold for decentralization reforms. The panel should now take a further step and promote power transfers from the central to local governments, and the state's regional branches should be comprehensively reviewed.


foothold=足場、足がかり)(decentralization=分散、分権)(states regional branches=国の地方への出先機関)

The government's Committee for the Promotion of Decentralization issued its first set of recommendations Tuesday. The committee called for transferring powers from the state to local governments and scaling down the central government's involvement in 15 administrative fields.


scaling down=剥げ落ちる、剥がす、剥奪する)

We hope the central government will fully respect the panel's recommendations and work to put them into practice.


Some parts of the recommendations have already been approved by government offices concerned.


However, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is strongly opposed to transferring the state's responsibility for approving farmland conversion to that of local governments, as well as other proposals.


It remains to be seen what decisions Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will make.


Though the committee presented certain directions to be taken with regard to powers over roads and rivers--two areas that have received a great deal of attention--it stopped short of reaching a conclusion.


The Construction and Transport Ministry had presented a plan to transfer the government's responsibilities to local governments for 15 percent of national roads that are under the supervision of the state and 40 percent of state-designated rivers that start and end in the same prefecture.


The panel, however, recommends the state transfer its powers over even more roads and rivers to local authorities.



Balanced power roles


How many more roads and rivers will become subject to the power transfer?


This will determine how far the panel will be able to ask the government to transfer the ministry's eight regional development bureaus' work and projects, officials and the money budgeted to their work, to prefectural governments in the second set of recommendations expected to be released at the end of the year.


Decentralization reforms are headed for a crucial stage.


The transport ministry is expected to step up its resistance to these reforms.


However, it is desirable that the government coordinates opinions, maintaining the principle of having local governments oversee transportation and rivers in their own jurisdiction while the state complements this work.



Standards to set up day care centers and special elderly nursing homes, which have been comprehensively specified by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, also are expected to be subject to a major change.



According to the panel proposal, the ministry will present basic standards as criteria, while specific standards will be determined by prefectural governments.


We believe the envisioned system will enable local governments to handle problems in accordance with the situations found in individual areas.


In large cities, where day care centers are in particularly short supply, it may become possible to open such facilities near stations with smaller floor space than currently-approved spaces.


In scarcely populated areas, buildings of closed schools could be turned into welfare facilities.


Innovative ideas from prefectural governments are needed to make efficient use of powers that are to be provided to them.




A clean transition


The panel also called for transferring 359 secretarial powers under 64 laws from prefectural governments to municipalities, including the right to approve urban planning projects.


Some prefectural governments have already transferred such powers to municipalities through special ordinances.

As the proposal is meant to spread such precedents in certain prefectures to other parts of the country, it moved a step ahead in promoting decentralization.


More powers will be transferred from prefectural governments to municipalities according to size--starting with government-designated cities with populations of 500,000 or more, to those with 300,000 or more residents, those with 200,000 or more residents and then other cities, towns and villages.


It is best that administrative works linked to local residents are taken care of by the local governments close to them.


Following the so-called Heisei era megamergers, the size of municipal governments has grown and administrative systems have improved accordingly.


Heisei era megamergers=平成の大合併)

Therefore, we believe it is natural for them to play bigger roles with the promotion of decentralization.


At the same time, however, local governments must keep in mind that with their increased powers will also come increased responsibilities.


with their increased powers will also come increased responsibilities =Increased responsibilities will also come with their increased powers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 30, 2008)

20085300153  読売新聞)


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