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2013年6月19日 (水)

地方制度答申 自治体連携で活性化図りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun June 19, 2013
Proposals call for local govts to cooperate to cut waste in administrative services
地方制度答申 自治体連携で活性化図りたい(6月18日付・読売社説)

To eliminate waste in local government and reinvigorate local economies, it is essential to boost cooperation among local governments and promote the division of labor and sharing of roles.

The government’s 30th Local Government System Research Council has submitted a set of proposals on reforming the governance of major cities. To eliminate overlapping functions of prefectural governments and those of the ordinance-designated major cities within their borders, the proposals call on the prefectural and municipal governments to establish a joint council and to transfer 35 types of administrative jobs, including paying public schoolteachers, from the prefectural government to the ordinance-designated city government.

The ill effects of overlapping local administrations have been observed in various parts of the country. For instance, there have been cases in which prefectural and major municipal governments have built similar public facilities close to each other, thus diminishing the utilization rate of both facilities.

Such inefficient city planning must be avoided. It is significant that besides the talks to be held between a prefectural governor and a designated city mayor when necessary, a system has been proposed whereby a formal consultative organization is set up for senior officials of both prefectural and municipal governments to discuss policies and coordinate their views in a multitiered manner.

The proposals also referred to the vision of “transforming Osaka into a metropolitan administrative unit” like Tokyo, but no specific plans were presented. Instead, the proposals listed certain points to keep in mind. For example, the proposals urge that the transformation be carried out in such a way that changes such as an increase in local tax grants given to Osaka do not have adverse impacts on the fiscal state of the central government and other local governments.

This is because the Osaka metropolis issue has already come to a conclusion of sorts with the enactment last August of a law that authorizes cities of over 2 million people to establish special administrative wards.

The proposals also call for boosting the decentralization of government authority within an ordinance-designated city, such as giving a ward mayor a special service status and more authority over personnel decisions and budgets.

Decentralization realistic

Such ordinance-designated cities as Yokohama are hoping to be transferred into “special cities” independent from the prefectural government. But the creation of a special city involves a number of challenges such as the establishment of special wards and the division of police organizations. It would be more realistic to promote the decentralization of government authority within an ordinance-designated city, at least for now.

On the other hand, the proposals advocate, as ways to deal with population decline, wide-area cooperation among local governments, which would center around 61 “pivotal local cities,” whose population exceeds the 200,000 mark, with the daytime population in excess of the nighttime population.

Under such a partnership, a pivotal local city and its neighboring cities, towns and villages will conclude an accord on policies covering issues ranging from health care, transport, industry and employment and have their administrative functions divided and shared. The central government would support them through the grant tax.

The idea is modeled after the system that started in fiscal 2009 on the “settlement and self-sustaining zones” centering around 84 “central cities” with populations of more than 50,000.

An era of consolidation

Many local governments are worrying about how to maintain administrative services while the population and tax revenues in their municipalities decline. Now that it has become difficult for a single local government to provide every kind of administrative service to local people, it is essential for such services to be shared through wide-area cooperation among local governments.

The important thing is for local governments to exert their originality and ingenuity in catering to the actual needs of local municipalities.

In the settlement and self-sustaining zone in northern Miyazaki Prefecture, Nobeoka and eight neighboring cities, towns and villages are promoting cooperation and division of functions among the prefectural-run Nobeoka hospital and other hospitals. Through such efforts, the hospitals have been able to improve their on-duty doctor system for nights and holidays, lessening the burden on doctors at the prefectural hospital by more than 40 percent. Such examples should give ideas to other local municipalities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 18, 2013)
(2013年6月18日01時32分  読売新聞)


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