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2013年9月 1日 (日)

地方分権改革 堅実な事務権限移譲が肝心だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 31, 2013
Power transfers to local govts must be undertaken steadily
地方分権改革 堅実な事務権限移譲が肝心だ(8月30日付・読売社説)

Instead of being swayed by temporary moods, it is of high importance to soundly move forward with the challenge of transfering administrative functions and authority from the central government to local governments in ways well suited to reality.

The government recently presented a set of draft proposals on a handover of power to local governments, to a panel of intellectuals on decentralization reform issues.

Among other things, the draft calls for delegating the central government’s administrative authorization and supervision of 44 types of entities, such as barber and beautician training facilities, to prefectural governments on a uniform basis across the country. The decentralization of authority over 24 other items currently under the direct control of the central government, including the improvement and maintenance of major rivers and national highways, should be studied with some conditions attached.

These are major pillars of the government’s draft proposals.

If the panel’s studies of some items are completed by the end of the year, the govenment is set to submit bills relevant to those items to an ordinary Diet session next year for the legislation and implementation of the power transfers.

When the Democratic Party of Japan was in power, such reckless and irresponsible slogans as “local sovereignty” and “abolition in principle of all regional branches of the central government” were yelled out emptily. The result was that discussions about decentralization were long left stagnant.

A major factor behind the latest development may be the fact that the importance of the leading roles played by the central government and its regional branches has widely been recognized anew in connection with the recovery and reconstruction projects in the areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

Taking advantage of the shift to a Liberal Democtratic Party-New Komeito administration, it is of key significance to calmly reconsider the roles of the central government and local entities, striving to advance decentralization by eliminating the overlap between the two to improve administrative efficiency and reinvigorate local economies.

Online employment services

The transfer of authority to local governments in the currently central government-controlled administration of rivers and national highways is a long-pending issue. Adressing this problem must be preceded, first of all, by achieving a major transfer of the fiscal resources and personnel involved.

Detailed studies should also be undertaken on adequate involvement of the central government in the event of emergencies such as a massive disaster. An appropriate point of contact between the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry and local governments must be considered.

The panel of intellectuals has formed proposals calling for the ministry to provide local governments with information on job offers at the ministry-run “Hello Work” employment agencies, and transfer to municipalities its authority over the registration and supervision of paid passenger transport businesses in depopulated regions and for welfare purposes.

Both of these ideas should be put into practice promptly.

The proposed service of online listings of job openings, of which about 9 million appear each year throughout the country, could be used effectively by local governments for such purposes as providing people on welfare with job placement services.

The online job information would also be provided to private staffing service companies. More fully employing women and young people through cooperation between the public and private sectors would definitely be in accordance with the government’s economic growth strategy.

It is urgent to secure transportation in underpopulated regions where bus and taxi businesses are not profitable, as well as for disabled people and those requiring nursing care.

Currently, a combined total of about 26 million people in such categories are receiving paid transportation services annually from about 3,000 corporations run by such organizations as municipalities and nonprofit groups.

It is quite reasonable to delegate registration and supervision from the land and infrastructure ministry to the municipalities, which are well versed in their own local situations. Endeavors to realize this would lead to more opportunities for the transfer of powers to coincide with the respective regions’ comprehensive projects for reinvigorating their communities.

To ensure the smooth transfer of power, it is imperative for the land and infrastructure ministry and prefectural governments to extend sufficient support to municipal governments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2013)
(2013年8月30日01時28分  読売新聞)


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