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2012年6月16日 (土)

「大阪都」法案 財政調整に国の関与は必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 16, 2012)
Central govt must have role in setting up Osaka metropolis
「大阪都」法案 財政調整に国の関与は必要だ(6月15日付・読売社説)

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan and its coalition partner the People's New Party apparently want to avoid turning the Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, into an enemy as they eye the next House of Representatives election.

To create the Osaka metropolis that Hashimoto has pushed for, the parties have submitted a bill to the Diet that would enable the establishment of "special administrative wards" similar to Tokyo's 23 wards.

To the same end, opposition parties including the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and Your Party have submitted two bills to revise the Local Government Law. The ruling and opposition parties have said they intend to integrate these three bills as quickly as possible.

Making the necessary legal arrangements to allow local governments to choose autonomous systems appropriate to their conditions is consistent with the aim of decentralization. However, the parties appear to be speeding up the task as if they were trying to cater to Hashimoto. We view this as questionable. Passing this legislation is not an urgent matter, and we urge the parties to discuss the issue thoroughly so the seeds of future problems are not sown.


State involvement at odds

The major difference between the bills of the ruling and opposition parties concerns the level of central government involvement. The bill formulated by the ruling camp would require the consent of the internal affairs and communications minister when legal arrangements are needed to distribute tax revenue or enact fiscal control in the envisioned special wards.

The creation of an Osaka metropolis would require substantial legal revisions, such as to the Local Tax Law and the Local Allocation Tax Law. To make sure the shift to a new system is smooth and does not disrupt people's lives, the central government must be committed from the formulation stage.

The bills compiled by the opposition parties would see less central government involvement, only allowing the state to provide local governments with information and receive explanations from them.

For example, the central government may not be able to say no when local governments ask for increased tax grants in conjunction with the establishment of the special wards. In such cases, the central government might have to cut tax grants to other regions, which would shake its role in the fundamental governance of the nation.

We believe the parties should come to a solution based on the ruling bloc's bill.


Local govts face grave tasks

The bills differ widely on the issue of population. The ruling bloc says more than 2 million residents would be needed to create a special administrative ward, while Your Party has set the threshold at 700,000.

Without a certain number of residents, local governments will find it difficult to independently provide welfare and other basic services, even with the cities divided into special wards. We are concerned that the initiative will prove ineffective and only increase costs, such as those for establishing ward assemblies, which is at odds with the purpose of the idea.

The bills merely stipulate the procedures required to create the special wards, but what is really important is whether local governments will be able to create adequate systems on their own.

Discussions over the specifics of the Osaka metropolis have only begun in Osaka Prefecture and the city of Osaka. How should Osaka be divided? How much authority should the special wards be allowed over governance and finances? There are many issues left to consider.

Some members of the Osaka prefectural and city assemblies have voiced opposition to the metropolis, with one saying, "Osaka would lose its vitality if the city was split," and another saying, "We could eliminate administrative overlap in the prefectural and city governments under the current system."

Hashimoto should make his plans based on a variety of views. After all, he is also fully accountable to residents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 15, 2012)
(2012年6月15日02時25分  読売新聞)


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